Stevan Ridley: Why New England Patriots Rookie RB Needs More Playing Time

Eitan Katz@@EitanKatzAnalyst IISeptember 26, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11:  Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

New England Patriots rookie running back Stevan Ridley is not waiting his turn.

The third-round pick out of LSU is a beast ready to be unleashed, and it's becoming very clear that staying on the sidelines is not something he likes to do. Every time this kid touches the field, it's magical.

Ridley's a powerful runner who has shown surprising quickness and agility when making defenders miss.

If running the ball well isn't good enough to crack the rotation, take a look at Ridley's contributions in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he showed a tremendous ability to pick up the blitz.

His ability to pick up the blitz could actually be his most valuable asset. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have always stressed the importance of running backs who can block, witnessed by their fondness for a guy like Kevin Faulk. Faulk would almost always find himself on the field when the Patriots needed a score at the end of games.


The answer is simple. When the other team brought pressure, Brady felt comfortable knowing that Faulk would give him that extra half-second he needed to complete a pass.

Ridley could easily shape up to be that player for the Patriots. However, I don't expect his contributions to end there.

A more powerful back than Danny Woodhead and a hell of a lot faster than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley's talent is undeniable.

I told you that when he touches the field, it's magical. Well, how's this for magical: In Ridley's first game in the NFL—albeit in a preseason game—the 22-year-old dazzled, producing two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. He looked like he was NFL-ready.

Unfortunately, an injury slowed his progress towards the end of the preseason. It seemed many people forgot about Ridley's dominant debut. They chose, rather, to look towards the duo of Woodhead and Green-Ellis as the Patriots two-headed running attack.

However, after Ridley's impressive performance against the Bills—he rushed seven times for 44 yards, caught one pass for eight yards and delivered one massive block on a Brady drop-back—the time is right now for the youngster.

I'm not suggesting that Ridley replace Woodhead or BJGE; I'm merely suggesting that the Patriots continue to use the rookie until he gives them a reason not to. It's not like the Patriots running attack is all that scary anyway.

Give Ridley 10 touches a game to start and watch as he blossoms into the best Patriots running back since Corey Dillon.

The kid from Mississippi is special. It's time for him to start getting some serious playing time, and it should start this week in Oakland against the ferocious Raiders pass rush.