Oct 13, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New Orleans Saints safety Rafael Bush (25) tackles New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Saints 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
It has been well documented this year, the struggles of holding onto the football for Stevan Ridley. It started early in the year, first game of the year in fact against the Buffalo Bills, where he fumbled twice, and lost one, being benched for Shane Vereen. While it seemed to have been patched up in the middle of the year, when he started to really roll, it has crept back, and cost him three fumbles in his last three games, with two especially costly ones against the Panthers and Broncos. But let’s not crucify the young back just yet, he still has too much to offer the Patriots this year, and beyond, so let me explain what he does for the New England Patriots offense that no other running back on the roster, or free agency can provide.
Stevan Ridley is a tone setter. We’ve seen him do it multiple times this year, where the Patriots rely on him to get things going, with his powerful and quick running. He allows the Patriots offense to start their engines and get settled into the game, something that has been noticeably missing these past few games. Without Ridley, the Patriots have troubles getting even first downs against defense that are fresh and coming after Tom Brady and that shaky offensive line. Shane Vereen is unable to do this, as he is more the scat back, who can’t do what the Patriots want at the start of games, which is to be explosive and get big yardage, running right at the defense. It’s also obvious that LeGarrette Blount can’t be this player either, as he just doesn’t have the explosiveness, and is more suited to second half running, winding the clock down, and wearing out defenses. Brandon Bolden might be the back that has the size, power and explosiveness similar to Ridley’s, and can maybe do what he does, but he loses all will to fight forward after first contact, and has a bad habit of trying to bounce everything outside. Ridley is needed to avoid these slow starts that have been plaguing the New England Patriots offense in the first half, because the Patriots can’t keep doing this thing where they fall behind teams, and expect to come back in the second half. Eventually they’re going to run into a team that’s just better than they are, and will proceed to get hammered.
My second point, look at some other very talented running backs that had fumbling problems. We could take Adrian Peterson, even though him and Ridley face very different looks. But it is important to note that he had some very bad fumbling issues the first three years of his career, fumbling 19 times and losing 12 of those fumbles in that three year span. He was able to fix it. How about someone not as great? Let’s take Tike Barber for example. Tike Barber was one of the best running backs of the early to mid 2000s, but he had one of the worst fumbling problems in history. He fumbled 24 times over a five-year span, and lost an incredible 16 of those fumbles! That’s not even including receiving fumbles, which would make it 34 total fumbles, with 18 lost. But over the course of his final two years, before he abruptly retired, he only had four fumbles, and lost just two, while proceeding to rush for over 3400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Players with bad fumbling issues can have them fixed, it’s not impossible.
Lastly, just look at what he’s been able to do. Since those first couple bad games that he had, Ridley has been on fire! Since the Bucs game, he’s rushed 99 times, for 455 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s a very healthy 4.6 yards per carry, and one touchdown per game. He’s been an integral part of this team, and should continue to be. I know some Patriots fans have been calling for him to be cut, or something ridiculous like that, but what good would that do? This is a running back that would be about as coveted as you can get, if released into the open market. Besides, if the Patriots just cut him, that wouldn’t be on Ridley, it would be on the coaching staff. It would be an irresponsible move on their part, not even working things out with Ridley, trying to help him get over this problem. Bill Belichick and Ivan Fears are not ready to give up on him just yet. This “benching” that he received against the Texans might have been the best thing for him, allowing him to relax, and not let the pressure get to him. And while some people might make fun of him for carrying around a football everywhere he goes, keep in mind, Tiki Barber did this as well, and it worked out pretty well for him.
What do you guys think of Stevan Ridley and his noted fumbling problems? What do you think Belichick and the New England Patriots should do with him? Let me know in the comments below.