New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is one of the most talented feature backs in the league when he’s on the field, because he can lead a team’s rushing attack as a pure workhorse. He’s fast, durable, agile, has great vision, and his cutting is incredibly smooth. Unfortunately, fumble issues prevented him from seeing the field enough last season, but he clearly made his presence felt when he was on the field. Before LeGarrette Blount’s breakout play near the end of the season, the Patriots offense stagnated without Ridley, and he was their saving grace with Rob Gronkowski out at the beginning of the season, playing an underrated role in their memorable win over the New Orleans Saints.
According to the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels, Ridley stated that he has taken more of a leadership role as we head into the 2014 season, and he added that he is “maturing”. Throughout his benchings, Ridley has shown great maturity and faith in the team, never saying anything against the Patriots and always vowing to improve. Hopefully he has improved his ball security under ace running backs coach Ivan Fears, because he doesn’t need to make as drastic improvements in that regard as some think. But Bill Belichick values ball security and winning the turnover battle above all else, so that’s why Ridley’s fumbles have become such a big issue. He still managed to notch 773 yards on the ground last year, and he might not hit 1,000 this year if talented rookie James White vultures enough carries.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been tabbed by many as the potential heir apparent to Tom Brady after the Patriots selected him in the second round (far earlier than most projected). After a rough first two day of training camp that featured some ghastly interceptions, the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports bounced back today in a strong performance, taking advantage of some added reps with Brady having a lighter day of work.
Per Howe, Garoppolo went 4-for-4 in 7-on-7 drills and 3-for-4 in 11-on-11 drills, and he highlighted two especially sharp throws. It’s good to see that Garoppolo is already making strides, as bouncing back from adversity is a key mental trait for quarterbacks to have. Garoppolo is far from a finished product as a passer, so any early struggles in camp should have been expected anyway.