New England Patriots: Stevan Ridley Is Bound to Break Out in 2012

Pranav TadikondaCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2012

Stevan Ridley of the Pats is bound to break out next season.
Stevan Ridley of the Pats is bound to break out next season.Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Despite losing their leading rusher in 2011, the New England Patriots are in a very good shape at the running back position.

When news broke that free-agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis left New England for a role with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Patriots found themselves comfortable at the running back position. 

While "The Law Firm" provided reliability and consistency, re-signing him would have been a luxury rather than a necessity.

After all, the Pats have a future star in Stevan Ridley.

After a year of learning under Green-Ellis, Ridley is primed to have a breakout season in New England. Now that Green-Ellis is gone, Ridley is projected to take over as the No. 1 back on the New England depth chart. 

With more playing time, Ridley should be able to build on his solid rookie season. He rushed for 441 yards on 87 carries, which was good for a 5.1 yards-per-carry average. In Ridley's junior year at LSU, he rushed for 1147 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

The question with Ridley is not talent, but experience. Many wonder whether Ridley has had enough NFL playing time to be a No. 1 back on a top-ranked offense.

Ridley showed flashes of brilliance at times last season and the Pats barely used him in the playoffs, when everything was on the line. It appeared that Bill Belichick trusted Green-Ellis more than his rookie. Since "The Law Firm" is gone, Ridley will be forced into the starting role.

To solve this mini-problem, the Pats will likely ease him into a big role by splitting his carries with veteran Danny Woodhead and the young Shane Vereen. Once Ridley is comfortable in his larger role, Woodhead and Vereen will likely be used as change-of-pace backs.

Pats fans can expect about 800-900 yards and about five or six touchdowns this season. Not bad for a second-year back. Along with Woodhead and Vereen, the Pats' rushing attack should be formidable this year.

With Stevan Ridley at running back and a plethora of weapons in the passing game, the Pats are in a very good position offensively.