Key players are starting to get healthy for the New England Patriots. After the good news on tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s status popped up earlier this week, we now hear that running back Stevan Ridley is back at practice. Patriots fans might not care as much about Ridley being healthy, but they should.
Ridley’s return would provide a boost to the running game, especially if he’s used. LaGarrette Blount drew the start against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday and was predictably ineffective. Blount is a downhill running back who can break inside tackles, but that’s about it. Ridley’s game is far more advanced than that.
Sure, Ridley’s numbers are down this season (47 carries, 174 yards, no touchdowns). However, he is still clearly the most talented runner in the backfield. He has the power to break tackles and the burst to cut things outside as well. Plus, when Ridley gets in the open field, he can head to the house.
What is Ridley’s most underrated aspect of his game is the fact that he can catch the football. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels still refuses to use Ridley as a receiving back, though. He’d rather turn to Brandon Bolden, who has been pretty mediocre in that facet. What’s even funnier is when McDaniels uses Blount as a receiving back.
On paper, Ridley’s possible return would be huge for the Patriots. However, if McDaniels continues to under-utilize his feature back, then the Patriots will continue to suffer in the running game. And that won’t be a good thing if McDaniels plans to match points with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
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.