|Is Stevan Ridley ready for a break-out?||09.27.11 at 6:14 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Going into last weekend’s game in Western New York, there were those who figured the Patriots were due for a break-out game in their rushing attack. And those same prognosticators figured it would be BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the loose in the teeth of the Bills defense.
Well, 45 Tom Brady passes later, the Patriots passing game was still the clear choice of attack by coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
The rushing attack was on display on just 26 snaps and it wasn’t Green-Ellis leading the way but rather an LSU product by the name of Stevan Ridley. Green-Ellis looked sluggish at the goal line and in short yardage so the Pats tried Ridley. They liked what they saw.
The rookie, who scored three times in the preseason rout of the Jaguars, rushed the ball seven times and gained 44 yards for a very healthy clip of 6.3 yards per carry, including a 16-yard scamper right between the tackles in the fourth quarter. He even caught one pass for eight yards. How much did the Patriots trust him? Five of his seven carries came in fourth-quarter pressure situations.
It would appear by those eight touches, the Patriots and O’Brien feel the rookie is learning the system at a fairly healthy clip.
“Last week was basically the first game that he had played a decent amount [in],” O’Brien said Tuesday. “He’s got a long way to go, just like any rookie, as it relates to the overall scheme and knowing what to do and things like that. I think that whole position has been good for us this year and productive. He’ll be another guy that we add into the mix there. Again, he’s got to improve in a lot of areas and he is a hard working guy. He’s his own guy; I wouldn’t compare him to anybody.”
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio liked what he saw from the moment he saw him play for Les Miles at LSU in Baton Rouge.
“He was a productive back against a good level of competition,” Caserio said of the back who faced SEC competition week-in and week-out. “He made the most of his opportunities on Sunday – like a lot of players have. I think the most important thing is week-to-week try to improve on your performance from the previous week and develop a level of consistency – whether it is Ridley or whether it is really any other player on this team. I think that’s really the most important thing – to learn from last week and move forward and figure out how you can improve and how you can help the team in whatever capacity that may be.”
Now Caserio, after watching him last Sunday dice and slice into the Bills secondary, is encouraged that Ridley role could grow.
“I think he’s got strong qualities – he’s big [and] physical,” Caserio said. “He’s got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but we will see how it goes this week.”
This week, Ridley and the Pats go up against a Raiders defense that allowed LaDainian Tomlinson 154 yards in total offense out of the backfield, including 116 yards on five catches. Could that be Ridley this week if not Danny Woodhead?
“Really I think every runner is sort of different,” Caserio said. “The most important thing for a runner is to get positive yards, be able to break tackles, find the holes and understand how plays are blocked. Our backs, between Benny and Danny, are really good in that respect.”
Now it appears you could add Ridley to that mix since he also caught one pass. The Patriots and most football teams say they go with the game-plan that matches up the best against the opposition the best.
“The most important thing for a back is to get positive yards and when the ball is in your hands to make something happen with it – whether you are throwing, whether the quarterback throws it to you or hands it to you,” Caserio added. “Any running back – that’s his job is to get yards and make positive plays.”
But with the Patriots, this year, they certainly appear to be using the passing to set up the occasional running opportunity but nothing more.
That could all change when the weather does but for now, it’s a secondary mode of attack.
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