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Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Stevan Ridley Has the Look of a Lead RB for New England

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Patriots vs. Buccaneers: Stevan Ridley Has the Look of a Lead RB for New England
Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Stevan Ridley has let no one get in his way on the path to being New England's No. 1 running back in 2012.

Stevan Ridley wasn't getting much help from his offensive line; he didn't need it, anyway.

Whether he was bouncing plays to the outside or bouncing off tacklers to the inside, Ridley was just as much Honey Badger as his former teammate Tyrann Mathieu.

"Some good plays, some not so good," said Belichick of Ridley (via PatsFans.com). Sounds pretty boring, and very average.

When he touched the ball, it was far from boring, and well above average. While Ridley batted .500 in blitz protection, his average was much better against the Buccaneers, running the ball at 5.44 yards per carry on 16 carries.

His night wasn't perfect, as he completely missed an assignment in blitz protection, allowing linebacker Adam Hayward a free shot at quarterback Tom Brady.

"I missed one, I’ll say that," said Ridley (via The Boston Herald). "I'll go look at the film tomorrow. I’m sure Coach (Bill Belichick) will have something to say on that. I’ll have to improve on that. That’s what you do in every game. You take what you mess up on, and improve on it, and try not to make the same mistakes. ...I’ll say I did mess up on that play, I’ll be man enough to say that and I’m going to have to work on that and make sure I don’t do it again."

He may have improved on it within the course of the game; he had a key block on linebacker Jacob Cutrera, also in blitz protection, but that probably won't save him from the wrath of Belichick.

He wasn't exactly lighting up the stat sheet before tonight's game against the Buccaneers. Before tonight, he had 18 carries for 65 yards in the previous two preseason games. But he was always showing the tenacity, the fight to earn yards every time he touched the ball. 

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And that tenacity was needed tonight more than the other two games. Defenders were constantly in the backfield, shooting gaps and beating their men up front, but Ridley kept his head down and took what he could get. 

He bounced several plays to the outside when everything was clogged up in the middle, and his biggest play of the night came on such a play where he reeled off a 29-yard gain before being pushed out.

He was a workhorse on New England's first touchdown drive, carrying the ball five times for 48 yards, adding a four-yard reception and capping it off with a one-yard touchdown dive off left guard not unlike what we were used to seeing from running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley saw plenty of contact as he lunged forward, and showed just the kind of whatever-it-takes attitude we were used to seeing from Green-Ellis near the goal line.

"He’s been a strong runner since the day he came in here and he’s continued to do that," said Brady of Ridley (via PatsFans.com). "When he gets the opportunity it seems like he’s doing a real good job. So that was great to see."

Courtesy Pro Football Focus
There are plenty of vacant snaps to go around with the Law Firm out of the picture, and it looks like Ridley's hard-nosed running is earning him the nod for a majority of those opportunities.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand.

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