When New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez injured his ankle in week two it forced the team to change its offensive strategy. Before the injury, the Patriots used a duel tight end system with the powerful Stevan Ridley in the backfield. Hernandez’s injury has forced the team to adapt. On Sunday night the Patriots used three wide receivers and ran the no-huddle which is better suited for backup Danny Woodhead. The limited role for Ridley is something that will continue in the coming weeks.
With the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis this offseason, the Patriots entrusted their running game to Ridley and Shane Vereen. But Vereen was injured during the preseason which left the backup role to Woodhead and undrafted free agent Brandon Bolden. Ridley and Vereen competed for the starting spot during training camp and when Vereen went down, Ridley was seen as the primary back.
The Patriots have become known for their unique use of tight ends over the past year. The use of tight ends Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski together has caused matchup problems for most defenses in the league. But with Hernandez on the sidelines the Patriots have had to change. On Sunday night they went with a quicker no-huddle offense which meant a change in personnel.
While Ridley was on the field for the majority of the snaps in the Patriots first two games, he was on the field for just 26 of the team’s 82 snaps Sunday night. Woodhead was on the field for 51 of those snaps. The Patriots seem happy with this new type of offense and Tom Brady says he’s comfortable running it. Without two dominant active tight ends the Patriots are expected to continue with this style of play. That means Ridley will continue this limited role in the offense.
This new style of offense seems to please Brady, Brandon Lloyd, and Wes Welker so the Patriots will be expected to stick with it. That means that Woodhead will now be the preferred back to Ridley until Hernandez is healthy enough to rejoin the team. Until that time, Ridley will continue his limited role in the Patriots offense.