|Stevan Ridley sees ‘drastic’ improvement in Patriots rushing attack||09.17.14 at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sometimes one week can make all the difference in the world.
In Week 1 against the Dolphins the Patriots ran for just 89 yards, only 28 of them coming in the second half as they ran just seven running plays the final 30 minutes of the game. Week 2 against the Vikings was a different story as the team ran for 150 total yards, 96 of them coming in the second half.
Stevan Ridley led the way, rushing for 101 yards on 21 carries.
“We’ve improved each week. I think Miami to Minnesota, I think [the offense and offensive line] made a drastic improvement,” Ridley said. “We all keep leaning on each other and relying on each other. I think we’re going to be OK towards the end of the year.”
On a personal level, the key for Ridley was staying patient as he only rushed for 29 yards in the first half, but was able to pick it up in the second half against a tired and demoralized Minnesota defense.
“Every back goes out there and wants to take it the distance, but there are going to be times that it’s going to be just two yards, three yards and you just have to keep plugging,” said Ridley. “You have stay disciplined as a runner and keep your legs moving and falling forward. That’s what you have to do to get the tough yardage, eventually they are going to break and you’ll get some big runs.”
Overall, the Patriots rank 16th in the NFL in rushing, this after being ranked 21st following Week 1. Like Ridley said, the Patriots are focused on getting better each week, wanting to reach its peak once December and the end of the season hits.
Ridley isn’t the only back who has seen time as Shane Vereen has been a force both in the running game and catching passes out of the backfield. Vereen has 76 yards on 13 carries and has caught six passes for 35 yards. Running the ball effectively and with consistency goes a long way in the Patriots offense as the team is 38-1 when a player runs for 100 yards or more under Bill Belichick.
“It’s only Week 3. The first week we struggled and the second week we got it going. There’s a lot of football left to be played, so I don’t want to jump in front of myself. From week-to-week I see improvement and that’s all we can ask for, especially with the group of guys that we have up there. There are some new faces – I think we all know that – but, like I said we’re just going in week in and week out showing what we can do,” Ridley said. “Eventually, these upcoming weeks, hopefully we will have a balanced attack going into every game and that’s what makes us hard [to stop]. The key word is hard work around here and that’s what we do.”
|Bill Belichick on Stevan Ridley: ‘We never want the ball out’||08.17.14 at 12:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Here we go again.
It’s only the preseason but the question of Stevan Ridley and ball security has arisen once more.
On his seventh carry Friday night against the Eagles, Ridley ran off to his right, behind the right guard and just as he appeared to be falling routinely to the ground at the Philadelphia 10, the ball came out.
It was recovered by fullback James Develin so the Patriots managed to salvage the red zone chance and finished it off when Jimmy Garoppolo found Brandon LaFell in the back of the end zone.
There was some question as to whether it was a fumble at all as Ridley was close to having his backside on the turf when the ball came out when safety Earl Wolff stripped it out. But to head coach Bill Belichick, who has been down this road for the last three seasons with Ridley, whether it was down by contact was not the issue.
“We always talk about ball security, taking care of the ball. There’s nothing that correlates more to winning and losing than turnovers, so that’s always a high priority for us,” Belichick said in his Saturday conference call. “We never want the ball out and on the other side of the ball defensively and in the kicking game, we always try to get it out. Sometimes when we get the ball out, we don’t recover it or sometimes when we get it out they blow it dead but we always want to try to do that. The same goes true for the offensive side of the ball.”
Ridley came out of the game on what appeared to be his normal rotation but when he began to sprint on the field before the LaFell touchdown, he was called back and Brandon Bolden took his place. Bolden had two runs and rookie James White had another as Ridley was given time to consider his indiscretion.
“We don’t want plays where they end up with the ball, whether they’re ruled in our favor or not,” Belichick said. “Guys that have an interception in their hands but drop it or plays where the ball gets away from us, whether we recover it or it goes out of bounds or they recover it, those are all plays we’re trying to avoid, obviously. They do matter. So do the ones that, same thing on defense, the plays that we get out, we don’t get them all but the more we get them out, the more we’ll get, so they are significant.”
Ridley’s trouble with holding onto the ball is well-chronicled in New England. He has lost four fumbles in each of the last two seasons and was benched for the AFC championship and Super Bowl in his rookie season when he lost a fumble in the regular season finale and a playoff win over the Texans in Jan. 2012. Still, Ridley remains one of the most productive runners in the Patriots backfield, averaging 4.5 yards and rushing for 20 touchdowns in his first three seasons in New England.
|Monday Patriots practice report: No Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Bolden as Pats D steps it up against RGIII||08.04.14 at 11:59 am ET|
RICHMOND, Va. — The Patriots and Redskins began their 2 1/2-hour initial scrimmage Monday morning under cloudy skies but by the time the haze burned off, it was a sunny, warm day with temperatures in the upper 70s.
The conditions expect to be much more intense Tuesday as the two teams will scrimmage again in the heat of the mid-afternoon here in Richmond.
Rob Gronkowski was not on the field as he continues to work his way back into full practice mode. To this point, the tight end has only been taking part in walk-through reps and individual passing drills in full pads.
Other Patriots players not taking part in the practice were special teams captain Matthew Slater, receiver Aaron Dobson, running back Brandon Bolden and center Bryan Stork.
Here are some quick observations from practice:
Tom Brady overthrew Kenbrell Thompkins on the first play of full 11-on-11 scrimmage. The pass was a route over the middle and Thompkins attempted to climb the ladder and would’ve been hit hard by the cornerback if it were in game conditions. Brady then was nearly perfect on the next three passes, two to Julian Edelman and one to Danny Amendola, as Edelman worked on D’Angelo Hall.
Brady felt heavy pressure in the pocket on the next series and stepped up and threw a bomb to wide-open Thompkins, who ran a post pattern.
Ryan Mallett continued to struggle badly with consistency. He made one sharp touch pass on a sideline pattern to Shane Vereen and an accurate pass over the middle to Justin Jones, but he threw two interceptions and overthrew Brandon LaFell on two other passes.
Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo also saw time against Redskins backups as he ran the second-team offense. He connected with D.J. Williams on one pass over the middle and found Brian Tyms down the right sideline in 7-on-7 drills.
|With LeGarrette Blount gone, do Patriots need to add backfield depth?||03.28.14 at 9:30 pm ET|
The departure of LeGarrette Blount to the Steelers means there will be more on the plate of Stevan Ridley in 2014, who now appears likely to return to his role as the closest thing the New England offense has to a featured back. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen figures to work in a change up role as the third down option and pass catcher out of the backfield, and Brandon Bolden will stick in his role as all-purpose backup.
But is there a need to bring in another body for depth? While running back isn’t considered an overwhelming priority for the Patriots (there are other greater areas of need, at least at this stage of the team-building process), it wouldn’t be a surprise for them to address it with a mid-round pickup in the draft, especially considering the fact that the bargain basement has been pretty much picked over, at least at this point. (The best options right now are probably Andre Brown, Michael Bush and Justin Forsett, as well as broken-down editions of Felix Jones, Ronnie Brown and Willis McGahee.)
With the understanding that the Patriots would be targeting a guy like that no earlier than the third day of the draft because of other areas of greater need, here are three backs who might be available to the Patriots this year as mid- to late-round possibilities:
a) Storm Johnson, Central Florida – A multidimensional back who has already drawn the attention of the Patriots — the 6-foot, 209-pounder was one of a handful of players who went through a workout for the Patriots’ brain trust when they were in Florida this past week for the league meetings — last season he had 1,139 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground to go along with 30 catches for 260 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
b) Andre Williams, Boston College – Remarkably, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder led the nation in rushing last year for the Eagles, ending up with 2,177 rushing yards and becoming a Heisman finalist as a result. At the combine, he fully acknowledged the fact that he needs to improve when it comes to his work in pass protection as well as a receiver out of the backfield, but his colossal yardage total from last year will almost certainly make him attractive to someone.
c) Bishop Sankey, Washington – A little on the smaller side, like Johnson, this 5-foot-9, 209-pounder offers value in the passing game as well as the running game. Last season, he ran for 1,870 yards for a 5.7 average and 20 touchdowns to go along with 28 catches for 304 yards and one touchdown.
Of course, this doesn’t begin to take into account what the Patriots do at the kick return spot in 2014. Blount’s departure could open the door for any number of possibilities on special teams, including Josh Boyce, Devin McCourty or collegian Jeremy Gallon, who had a private workout for New England special teams coach Scotty O’Brien earlier this week in Ann Arbor. While the different looks that the three backs present should be enough to keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes in 2014, it’s clear the Patriots do need to address the position going forward, especially considering the fact that Vereen and Ridley are heading into the final year of their rookie deals. Certainly a spot to watch going forward this offseason for New England.
|BC’s Andre Williams would welcome chance to join Patriots||02.22.14 at 9:24 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The Patriots aren’t likely to be in the market for a running back this year, and if they are, it’s unlikely they’d go after someone in the first two days of the draft.
With a stable of backs like Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden — and that doesn’t begin to take into account whether or not free agent LeGarrette Blount would return — the one offensive skill position area you’d think New England would feel pretty good about in 2014.
But that doesn’t necessarily stop Boston College running back Andre Williams from speculating about what it might be like to stay in the New England area. Williams, who led the nation in rushing with 2,177 yards and was a Heisman finalist, sounds like he’d welcome a chance to stick around the area for as long as he could.
If Blount walks in free agency — and Williams drops in the draft — chances are he might get his wish.
“It would be a blessing to end up on the Patriots squad,” said the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder Friday at the combine. “They’re a winning franchise. They have a great coach. He seems like a really levelheaded cool guy to deal with. It would be great to go back to the Northeast. That’s where my family is situated right now. It would be a great fit.”
Williams, who is current projected as a second-day pick who could end up dropping to the third day of the draft depending on how things shake out, made his bones in a run-first offense at Boston College, one that was tailored to fit his strengths. Even though he was one of the best backs in college football last season, when he reaches the NFL, he knows that he’ll have to tweak his game.
“I think my game is going to have to evolve,” he acknowledged. “I think I’m going to be called upon to catch the ball more, pass protect more, know what’s going on, on defense more. Make reads on fronts and coverages faster than before. That’s part of becoming a professional from the amateur level. Upping your level of preparation.
“I think my pass protection is solid. This year there was a lot of play-action built in to our game plan. But we did have some drop-back pass. And in past years, the offense was different. I was relied more on pass protection. I think it’s pretty solid.”
Williams, who has meetings scheduled with the Bills, Ravens, Jaguars and Bengals, went through some coaching upheaval while at BC, as the Eagles went from Frank Spaziani to Steve Addazio. While the changes led to some struggles, he said it also helped draw the guys on the roster closer.
“I would say my time at BC was…a journey,” said Williams. “There was a lot going on from year to year, different coaching changes and what not. But I think there was a real stability in the team itself. I really enjoyed being around my teammates. I really enjoyed Chestnut HIll and the Boston area. There’s a lot of great people a lot of great influences around me at BC. I really enjoyed my time there.”
|Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Running back||01.30.14 at 5:40 pm ET|
With the Patriots done for the year, we’ve got an end of the year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams, wide receivers and tight ends. Now, it’s the running backs.
Depth chart: Stevan Ridley (178 carries, 773 rushing yards, 4.3 YPC, 7 TDs), LeGarrette Blount (153 carries, 772 rushing yards, 5 YPC, 7 TDs), Shane Vereen (44 carries, 208 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC, 1 rushing TD; 47 catches, 427 receiving yards, 3 TDs), Brandon Bolden (55 carries, 271 rushing yards, 4.9 YPC, 3 TDs; 21 catches, 152 receiving yards), fullback James Develin (4 carries, 10 rushing yards, 2.5 YPC, 1 TD).
Overview: This was a fascinating group to watch over the course of the year. The season started with Ridley as the lead back, but that didn’t last a full half before he was benched in the opener against Buffalo in favor of Vereen because of a fumble. Vereen then assumed the lead role — until it was revealed at the end of the Bills game that he suffered a wrist injury and would go on IR-DFR. The Patriots turned back to Ridley, who continued to have ball security issues over the course of the season, so much so that he was benched for a game against the Texans.
But as the season went on, Blount began to emerge as a powerful force, while Vereen and Ridley became complementary parts of the running game. While the running game stalled out in the AFC title contest, the stretch drive effort of Blount — 431 yards in a three-game stretch (two at the end of the regular season and one playoff game) — provided a tremendous lift for the New England offense at a time when it needed it most.
(While the three lead backs got most of the ink, it’s important to note that Bolden and Develin also provided a boost, Bolden with some much needed depth protection — particularly in spot duty when Vereen was on the shelf — while Develin and his neck roll were able to do a tremendous job clearing the way for the rest of the backs. Prior to the 2013 season, the Patriots hadn’t employed a full-time fullback since Heath Evans in 2008, but Develin’s work and dependability likely mean he’ll be back again in 2014.)
It remains to be seen what this group will look like in 2014. Can Vereen emerge as a healthy and consistent offensive threat? Can Ridley get over whatever ball security issues dogged him over the course of the 2013 campaign and return to full-time, lead-back status? And how deep will the Patriots reach into their own pockets to bring back Blount, who will hit the free agent market as one of the most intriguing prospects on the radar screen? Regardless, figure on the running back position to be one of the strengths of the offense heading into the 2014 season.
Read the rest of this entry »
|Patriots practice Friday: Brandon Bolden joins Aaron Dobson, Alfonzo Dennard on list of absentees||12.06.13 at 11:06 am ET|
FOXBORO — Running back Brandon Bolden was not on hand as the Patriots began their sweats and shells practice Friday in the light rain on the lower practice fields outside Gillette Stadium.
Bolden was not on this week’s injury report and has been a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday after nursing a knee injury earlier in the season.
Three other players were absent Friday, including Alfonzo Dennard, who left the team to deal with a court appearance in Nebraska. Dennard is having another court appearance Friday afternoon in Nebraska to answer to a charge of DUI in July. On Thursday, Dennard was given an additional 30 days in jail, 100 hours of community service and another year of probation for violating terms of his initial probation.
Two other Patriots were absent Friday due to injury as rookie receiver Aaron Dobson continues to nurse a foot injury that forced him to miss Sunday’s game in Houston. Dobson played just 36 of 87 snaps against the Broncos on Nov. 24 before showing up on the injury report last week. The team re-signed Austin Collie Thursday morning for wide receiver depth.
Marcus Cannon injured his ankle against the Broncos in the first half against the Broncos and was replaced by Will Svitek for the remainder of the game. Cannon was not active last Sunday against Houston, marking the first game he has missed this season.
Both Cannon and Dobson have missed practice all week and are expected to be ruled out for Sunday’s game against Cleveland. For the third straight day, the team worked out in sweats and shells on the lower practice fields in preparation for the Browns this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- How Big of an Impact Will Easley Make for Pats?
- Patriots' Top Offseason Moves
- Assessing Every Patriots UDFA's Chances of Making the Roster
- Projecting Patriots' Roster Battles This Offseason
- Ranking Pats' Remaining Offseason Priorities
- Early Projections for Patriots' Final 53-Man Roster
- In-Depth Look at Each Pats Draft Pick