Yes, you read the title correctly. Rookie running back Stevan Ridley may be a catalyst in the improvement of this defense that is giving up a disgusting amount of yards.
First and foremost, let's get one thing straight. Despite Tedy Bruschi's most recent comments about his former team, New England's defense is not as bad as it looks. I won't go as far as to say that this is a "good" defensive unit, they have yet to prove that, but let's take a closer look at why they are giving up so many yards.
Simply put, the defense is on the field for an atrocious amount of time, and more time on the field means more opportunities for opposing offenses to gain yardage. Most critics will attest to the notion that the defense can't get off the field on third down or they lack a consistent pass rush. While these criticisms are certainly fair, there is something most of us are overlooking.
According to FootballOutsiders.com, Tom Brady and company are the most efficient offense in the league. The Pats are at the top of league in points scored, averaging 34 points per game. As strange as it may sound, the prime culprit for the Patriots' defense giving up so many yards is actually the Patriots' offense! They score too fast! So how do you fix such a strange...problem?
Insert Stevan Ridley here.
Stevan Ridley is convincingly making the case that he is the most talented running back on New England's roster. Ridley boasts a team high average of 8.2 rushing yards per carry. Ridley is a faster and stronger running back than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and given his size (5'11'', 225 lbs), will undoubtedly be better in pass protection than Danny Woodhead (5'8'', 195 lbs). Stevan Ridley needs to become the No. 1 back on this team, with Green-Ellis serving as the bruising short-yardage back and Woodhead as the shifty third down specialist.
Much like they did against the Oakland Raiders this weekend, the Patriots should continue piling on points in the first half through the air, but then begin to ground-and-pound the ball throughout the second half. The Patriots ran for an impressive 183 yards against the Raiders, with Ridley leading the team with 97 yards on 10 carries. Ridley needs to get the ball more.
The defense categorically will give up less yards if they are on the field less, but more importantly, by running the ball effectively, the Pats can take some time off the clock and hold onto their lead. Additionally, the defensive players will have adequate resting time while the Pats offense runs over opponents. As the defense's numbers start to improve, I think this unit will gain confidence and start to make much needed strides.
The Patriots have talented running backs, a tough offensive line and tight ends that can block. Despite their Godly ability to destroy defenses with an air attack, this team has the personnel to run the ball with the best of them. A solid running game could indirectly help this defense look more like a defense that could help the Patriots win a Super Bowl.
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