By: Steve Balestrieri
This week’s player to watch in the Patriots and Jets Thursday night’s contest is running back Stevan Ridley for the Pats. Ridley was benched after fumbling twice in the early going of last week’s game in Buffalo and the team needs a big bounce-back performance from the 3rd year back.
With Shane Vereen (wrist) out and Leon Washington and Brandon Bolden questionable with injuries, the team needs Ridley and LaGarette Blount to step up against the Jets. Ridley was sat down on Sunday for losing his second fumble, which happened without him being touched against the Buffalo Bills.
Ridley is far from a committee-type player for the Patriots, he is the team’s main weapon in the rushing game rushing for 1263 yards and a 4.4 yard per carry average in 2012. So he wasn’t going to be banished to the bench for long. But now it’s imperative that he rebound and quickly.
Prior to the second fumble, Ridley was running well and averaging over 5 yards per carry against the Bills netting 46 yards on nine carries.
Ridley is expected to carry the load for the Patriots in the running game.
(USA TODAY Images)
So for the home opener on Thursday night, Patriots coaches and key players are trying to pump his tires a bit and instill some confidence in the 24 year old back.
“I’ve talked to Stevan,” Bill Belichick said. “Look, every player has the same responsibility every week … to be ready to play, to be ready to go. That’s their job. They can’t control coaches’ decisions. Coaches’ decisions are coaches’ decisions. They can control their preparation. They control their performance when they’re in the game. That’s what a player’s job is. It’s all the same for everybody.”
Ridley didn’t make excuses or shy away from any blame, taking responsibility totally for his miscues.
“I can’t make excuses, two balls on the ground is unacceptable,” Ridley said, in an interview with WEEI. “I have to accept where I messed up, made a mistake and grow from it.”
So with the Patriots offense banged up, in addition to the running backs, Danny Amendola is doubtful with a groin injury as is TE Zach Sudfeld with Aaron Dobson questionable with a hamstring, Ridley’s presence will be a necessity.
And the Jets are not an easy team to run upon, both Ridley and Blount have their work cut out for them. The Jets held the dangerous Doug Martin from Tampa Bay to 65 yards on 24 carries in the opener on Sunday and have a fast, physical front seven.
And Ridley has the confidence of his QB, Tom Brady who also spoke highly of the running back.
“I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid, and I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him, watching him run. He’s done a great job with that since he’s got here,” Brady stated.
If the Patriots are to pull off a win on Thursday night, they’ll need their veterans to step up their game. And Stevan Ridley will be a big part of that.