Most NFL fans are fickle, citing Week 1 performances as reasons that players should be benched. This was such the case for Stevan Ridley, who had a brutal performance against the Buffalo Bills. Ridley had a horrific fumble, losing the ball without even being touched. He almost fumbled before that too, barely getting a ruling of down by contact.
Yet, Bill Belichick cannot lose perspective on Ridley after just one game.
Ridley is still the best runner on the Patriots. He is coming off a breakout 2012 season in which he rushed the ball 290 times for 1,263 yards (4.4 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. The young running back demonstrated explosive burst with the ability to make decisive lateral cuts and run hard between the tackles.
Ridley’s ability to hit holes made him a very viable option in the red zone as well. He was a “workhorse back” by all meanings of the phrase.
It wasn’t like Ridley was terrible in his other action against the Bills. He carried the rock nine times for 46 yards, good for 5.1 YPC. Ridley was showing the same explosiveness that was seen from him in 2012. However, one cannot dismiss his inability to hold onto the rock in this one — this hasn’t been a huge problem over his career.
Ridley has now fumbled the ball six times in 33 career regular season games. That’s an average of one fumble per 5.5 games. All things considered, that’s not too bad of an average. Some fans would like to point to bad fumbles committed by Ridley in the playoffs, but they were more of the “wrong place, wrong time” type of occurrences. Ridley’s fumble against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 AFC Championship Game was understandable, seeing that he was practically knocked out before the ball came loose.
Simply put, Ridley has proven that he can be a workhorse running back. Belichick might hate it when his running backs fumble the ball, but Ridley’s career averages suggest that he probably won’t fumble the ball again for awhile. His presence will be even more important considering the injury to Shane Vereen. Ridley is simply the most talented player left in the backfield, so he must be out there practically all the time.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.