Patriots fans have watched runningback Stevan Ridley continue to get more and more reps with the Patriots offense in recent weeks, and he is certainly justifying his increased role through week 4.

On Sunday against Oakland, Ridley rushed for 97 yards off of 10 carries, one of which was a 33-yard run for a touchdown, and averaged a more than respectable 9.7 yards per carry. In total he has 18 attempts for 148 yards with an average of 8.2 YPC. It’s been a great start, causing plenty of excitement to build around this young prospect.

So far Stevan Ridley is showing signs each week that he deserves to continue to get more reps on the field. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

There is a lot of talk about how much his role will increase as the season goes on, and many argue he could be our feature back by the end of the regular season and going into the playoffs. I commented on this myself in the review during our “Patriots Fourth and Two” podcast (a new Patriots podcast show which can also be found on ITunes) and said that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ridley start getting a bulk of the carries.

He needs to do a lot to be that guy.  However, lets talk about the pros of Ridley first.

The rookie runningback possesses¬†a style of running that can see him potentially becoming a 3 down back. ¬†He can take the ball ¬†north and south, and run over would-be tacklers in the 1/2 and 3/4 gaps but, most importantly, he¬†possesses¬†a burst of speed which enables him to run off-tackle….a burst I don’t think Benjarvus Green-Ellis has. This burst was something NFL Scouts were not sure Ridley had either, and something else they criticized him on was his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and blitz pick-up. ¬†Instead he seems to have proven these scouts wrong in recent Preseason and Regular Season¬†performances, and has definitely shown me he can be the future at the position.

Despite all the pros, there are still a lot of cons to his style of running. He runs very upright, likes to spin out of and turn his back on would-be tacklers and doesn’t always wrap both arms around the football when running outside. These are recipes for disaster, including injury and turnovers. Green-Ellis hasn’t fumbled in his NFL career, nor his College career, and some teammates from his high school days argue he never fumbled then either. This reflects in his style of running inside and outside of the tackles and Ridley needs to learn a lot more from “The Law Firm” until he is ready to take the reigns.

So what does this mean for the Green-Ellis himself? I often wonder why the Patriots only offered him his tender and not a long term deal, albeit it was a second round tender. In today’s NFL, feature backs who carry the load often have very short careers, which is why teams like the New¬†York¬†Giants adopt a ‘two back’ approach with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Jacobs is your downhill running back who bares the brunt of the carries down the middle, while Bradshaw is your cut-back runner who offers an air of¬†unpredictability¬†and can do both, thus getting more of the opportunities. Jacobs takes some of the load off of Bradshaw so to speak.

Therefore I could see Green-Ellis taking this role up perfectly. While Ridley is actually a little heavier than Green-Ellis, I would argue he is as good, if not better, inside of the tackle and these backs aren’t always easy to find; the type that don’t take one step back, but go full speed forward, putting their bodies on the line. ¬†Having both Green-Ellis with Ridley would increase the rookies ‘life expectancy’ in the NFL and prolong his career, while also giving us a two back approach that makes the Giants so successful in that area of the game. Vereen and Woodhead would obviously be the other two running backs looking forward.

I’m guessing Ridley will see an increased role throughout the season, and may well be that feature back if he improves on the factors I feel he needs to improve on; as do others I might add (the guys on PFW In Progress recently commented on it also). However, I feel it is integral to Ridley’s career to re-sign Green-Ellis and maintain that two back approach which I feel will aid the Patriots’ running game a great deal. There is every chance Ridley could see the bulk of carries by the end of the season depending on his progress, which coaches believe he is making on a day to day basis.

Let us hope so, because so far after what we’ve seen so far through four games, Ridley is proving to be an absolute steal in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft.

Like what you read? Check out the rest of my blog ’4th & Long’ for more! If you would like to comment and offer your insight into this article, feel free to leave your thoughts! You can follow me on twitter; @DamoJarrett

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A Look At Stevan Ridley's Continuing Development, 6.6 out of 10 based on 13 ratings