Week one for the New England Patriots has come and gone. Most Patriots fans would say that the game did not go as planned with the Patriots squeaking out a late victory on a Stephen Gostkowski 35-yard field goal. With many storylines around this game including the bit of an unexpected struggle with the Buffalo Bills, there may be a RB controversy brewing in New England over the next few weeks.
Stevan Ridley, who has had a history of putting the ball on the ground, continued to struggle week one against the Bills. Ridley put the ball on the ground early in the first quarter but got off the hook as it was recovered by his offensive lineman. Bill Belichick decided to stick with the third year back who rushed for over 1200 yards just a year ago. Ridley seemed to settle in a bit and broke off some good runs. But later in the second quarter he would put the ball on the ground again. Only this time he was not as lucky as the ball was scooped up by Buffalo defender Da’Norris Searcy and returned 74 yards for the Bills’ first score of the game.
With a 10-0 lead and possession of the ball, the last thing the Patriots wanted to do was give up seven points to the Bills’ defense. With the opportunity to make the game 17-0, giving the Bills an easy seven points and letting them back into the game ultimately gave them the confidence to make it a game and build off the momentum of a defensive score. Stevan Ridley, who may have been lucky on the fumble early in the game, did not get so lucky on this one. He was on a short leash to begin with his fumbling issues, and after that blunder, Belichick sat him down for the rest of the game. With that mess up on Ridley’s part, Shane Vereen stepped in and made a case for himself to become the Patriots’ No. 1 back.
Vereen, who was taken a round higher than Ridley in the 2011 NFL Draft, is different kind of RB and a more dynamic player with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. But with Ridley out of the game, Vereen took advantage of the 14 carries he would get. He seemed to have an easy time finding holes and would end up finishing the day with 101 yards rushing. He would also add another seven receptions for 58 yards. With a good day both rushing and receiving, and the fact that he took care of the football, he may have just knocked Ridley down the depth chart.
Now I am not saying that Ridley has already lost his starting position in the Patriots’ offense, but his starting job could quickly turn into a RB rotation or RB by committee. If Ridley proves he can protect the ball and put up good numbers he may win that job back, but if he continues to put the ball on the ground and Vereen proves to be a valuable runner as well as a pass catcher, we could quickly see Vereen becoming an every down back and Ridley be more of a goal line and change of pace back. Whatever may happen, fans, media and fantasy owners alike will be keeping a close eye on this story. The offense already has many questions around it, and this could just be thing the Patriots will have to deal with as the season moves forward.