For Stevan Ridley, the fumbling woes of last season returned almost immediately in last Friday’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. While Ridley appeared to have his knee down before the ball came loose, which would have overturned a fumble call had the Eagles recovered, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made note of the play, saying via ESPN.com, “it was close,” appearing none-to-pleased that Ridley once again nearly cost the Patriots a turnover.
There are many players for New England who have a niche, good and bad. Rob Gronkowski is the guy who gets injured, Tom Brady the Hall of Fame quarterback with the best goal-line sneak in the league, and Ridley is the guy who fumbles. Every teammate, coach, and fan of Ridley’s has undoubtedly hoped he could put his ball-dropping ways behind him, but the chance that this is just who he is as a player increases each time he steps on the field.
This does not resonate well with Belichick, who has benched him countless times for this very issue. Ridley is now in the final year of his contract and Belichick must decide if the positives outweigh the negatives. Is an almost guaranteed fumble every now and then okay based on the positive attributes Ridley brings to the team?
Ridley is the best running back on the Patriots, despite the fumbling issue. His speed and ability to move around a defense are incomparable–a talent he has proven the past two seasons, rushing for a combined 19 touchdowns. Despite his proven talent, the fumbling is the trait given the most attention; a trait I am wiling to put behind me for the sake of the Patriots’ offense.
Unless the Patriots can bring in another proven runner, Belichick needs to put the fumbling issue behind him. Ridley is young and scores touchdowns–coughing up the ball every now and then shouldn’t, and doesn’t make a different when the team is constantly of Super Bowl caliber. Without Ridley, the running game would be virtually non-existent, something this offense can’t afford. In the past, Brady has relied on his arm more than he should. Having a great runner to pass the ball off to gives him a break and it’s obviously a great way to score points. If Belichick knows what’s good for his team, and I think he does, Ridley needs to stay on the field and on the roster beyond this season.