Stevan Ridley has
gotten a bad
Ridley’s predecessor as New
England’s number one running back was BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
rushing the football more than 500 times in his NFL career for the
Patriots, Green-Ellis never fumbled the football.
So it came to a great shock to
Patriots fans and the local media when Ridley fumbled last year in the
final game of the regular season at Buffalo and in the Divisional
playoff game against Denver. Football fans and experts in these parts
became unsure what they were seeing. Green-Ellis created an unrealistic
expectation when it came to running backs and fumbles by simply never
doing it. So when another running back, such as Ridley, put the ball on
the ground twice, he was immediately and unfairly labeled as fumble
With Green-Ellis leaving the
Patriots as a free agent, most Patriots pundits seem to think Ridley
can fill the void as the starting running back, but always finish their
analysis with the sentence “as long as he doesn’t fumble.” You can say
that about any running back. It’s just not a fair criticism in Ridley’s
|Ridley at Patriots Training
So the question is simple, is
Ridley truly a fumble risk? In 16 games during his rookie season, he
rushed the ball 87 times with seven kickoff returns, and three
receptions with one fumble.
The fumble came during the
aforementioned Buffalo game in Week 17. During that rush, Ridley
attempted to split two defenders, Buffalo defensive backs George Wilson
and Aaron Williams, in the open field at the 50 yard line. As he
crossed the 50 and successfully split the two defenders, Williams was
able to hit Ridley’s right arm, causing the ball to pop out and bounce
harmlessly out of bounds. He was sandwiched between two defenders and
it was hardly a careless fumble. Williams made a great defensive play
on the ball.
The playoff game fumble came
off a reception. Ridley, who was lined up as a receiver, had to run
back to the line-of-scrimmage to catch the ball thrown by Tom Brady on
the Broncos 20-yard-line. He had his back to the Denver cornerback who
grabbed Ridley from behind. As Ridley was falling forward to the
ground, two other Broncos defenders converged on a defenseless Ridley
and simply nail him and the ball to cause the fumble.
Following that fumble, Ridley
found himself on the bench. “You look back and you learn your
mistakes,” Ridley told the media during training camp. “The two fumbles
on the ground you can’t have. This is a new year and you can’t live in
the past, but you certainly have to remember what got you on the bench.”
Granted, Ridley fumbled twice,
but running backs fumble. Even the great ones fumble. In 2004, while
Corey Dillon rushed for a Patriots franchise record 1,635 yards, he
also tied a career season-high with five fumbles that year. The
previous team record holder was Hall of Famer Curtis Martin in 1995,
who rushed for 1,487 yards, but he also had five fumbles that season.
Stevan Ridley v Buccaneers Aug 24, 2012
(Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)
Certainly it’s far too soon to
put Ridley in the category of Dillon and Martin, but all running backs
are going to fumble. What gets lost are the 441 yards he rushed for on
only 87 attempts and averaging 5.1 yards a carry in 2011.
“Nobody wants to fumble,”
Ridley said. “As a running back, that’s the worst thing to have the
ball on the ground. You try not to make an issue and you just go out
there and continue to play football and bounce back.”
To label Ridley a fumble risk
so soon in his career is unfair. Green-Ellis was more the fumble-less
exception than the norm. Ridley will exceed 1,200 yards this season and
a couple fumbles won’t taint his accomplishments.
Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to
Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has
extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots.