Running back Stevan Ridley got off to a rocky start this season, and heading into Sunday’s final game against the Jets he has the challenge of bouncing back from what was a rough outing for him the last time these two teams met.

In that game Ridley carried the ball 16 times for just 40 yards against a Jets’ defense that did a good job getting penetration and making life extremely difficult for him.  That wasn’t a fluke, as the Jets have the second ranked rushing defense in the league, with opponents averaging just 75.7 yards per game against them.

During that week two contest, New York’s defense stopped Ridley for negative yardage four times, the highest total against him so far this season. He only has eight total negative rushes all year, with one against the Bills, Buccaneers, Falcons, and last Sunday against the Saints.  He finished his previous game against the Jets averaging 2.5 yards per carry, his lowest total of the season.

Here’s a breakdown of his season totals:

Week 1 at Bills: 9 Carries, 1 Negative Carry, 1 For No Gain, 46 total yards (5.1 avg)
Week 2 vs Jets: 16 Carries, 4 Negative Carries, 2 For No Gain, 40 total yards (2.5 avg)
Week 3 vs Buccaneers: 11 Carries, 1 Negative Carry, 35 total yards (3.2 avg)
Week 4 at Falcons: 11 carries, 1 Negative Carry, 1 For No Gain, 53 total yards (4.8 avg)
Week 5 at Bengals: Did Not Play (Injury)
Week 6 vs Saints: 20 carries, 1 Negative Carry, 2 For No Gain, 96 total yards (4.8 avg), 2 TD’s


Ridley struggled during New England’s week two meeting.
(USA TODAY Images)

Going back and looking at the game film, the big thing to notice from that outing was the fact he was extremely patient, staying behind his blockers and waiting for whatever there was to open up.  He didn’t push the issue and took what they gave him, which despite the output is impressive for a player who is only in his second full season as an NFL starter.  That’s something he’ll once again have to do this weekend.

“They’re a great football team,” said Ridley this week in his conference call with the New York media. “The front seven is very active. They got some great lineman that get a lot of penetration.”

He’s shown good instincts, and according to ProFootballFocus.com he’s among the league leaders in yards after contact, picking up 2.3 additional yards from when opponents first get to him.  That has him tied with three other players for the eighth highest total.  He’s an explosive back and when he does hit the hole, he bursts through it.  He’s also tough and isn’t a finesse back, with the majority of his running being done inside.  Looking at his totals on the season 48 of his 67 rushes have come between the tackles.  He’s only run outside 19 times all year, carrying 7 times to “left end”, and 12 to the “right end” based on the NFL’s official game book totals.

At this point he’s on pace for only about 720 yards, down from his total of 1263 last season. The reason for the drop off is because he missed a game due to injury, as well as the fact New England has been running the ball by committee more this season.  LeGarrette Blount has carried the football 53 times thus far, and we’re only six games in.  That’s close to the entire season totals that both Brandon Bolden (56) and Shane Vereen (62) each had in 2012.

However, Ridley reached a season high with his 20 carries last week while Blount carried 7 times for all of 9 yards (1.3 avg).  Ridley didn’t show any ill-effects from the injury that kept him out the week before in Cincinnati, which is a good sign heading into the rest of the season.

For now he’ll have to see if he can have some success against what should be a tough defense, and Ridley feels it’s going to take a solid outing to improve to 6-1.

“ I think it’s going to be a great matchup,” said Ridley. “We’re facing a strong defense, they’re going to be very active, they got some good guys up front and some great backs. We’re going to have to come in there and play some solid football if we plan on coming out with a victory in this game. ”

REX RYAN ON THE SCOUT TEAM?

Apparently Ryan decided to test his coverage skills in the kick return game on Thursday and after signing Josh Cribbs this week, New York Post writer Brian Costello was at practice yesterday and reported that the Jets’ coach was on the scout team and “chased Cribbs down”:

Although then again, if Ryan caught him, that may not say much for Cribbs.

GRONKOWSKI EARNS PRACTICE PLAYER HONORS:

After reportedly spending last week on the scout team as Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski was apparently rewarded for his efforts after Christopher Price of WEEI.com reported that the veteran tight end was spotted with a black jersey yesterday.  That means he earned the honor of practice player of the week for his efforts, and obviously it worked out well because New England’s defense completely shut Graham down.  According to USA TODAY, Gronkowski has been cleared to play this weekend against the Jets, although for fans who have seen how this story has unfolded in recent weeks we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if he finally takes the filed.

A BIZARRE NFL SPONSOR:

Watching my timeline on Thursday I noticed a Tweet from Bart Hubbuch, who is an NFL writer for the New York Post.  He came across an interesting sponsor for the league, and let me preface by saying that for anyone out there who is aware and has either undergone the procedure themselves or has a spouse that has, I’m not saying anything negative about it.  However, the way it’s marketed on their website along with the way the NFL was used as a tie in, it’s just a little bizarre in terms of the way they decided to word it.  I’m not telling you what it is, but you can see for yourself here.

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Patriots calling now on Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon – Michael Whitmer

Agent comes to Rob Gronkowski’s defense – Shalise Manza Young

BOSTON HERALD:

Rob Gronkowski return remains in limbo – Jeff Howe

Chatham: Julian Edelman gives Pats rich returns - Matt Chatham

Notebook: CBs ready to ad-lib if Aqib Talib a no-go – Jeff Howe

ESPN BOSTON:

Pats in sub defense 69 percent of time - Mike Reiss

Bruschi’s Breakdown: Time to keep it simple – Mike Reiss & Tedy Bruschi

WEEI:

What is tipping point for 2013 Patriots? – Christopher Price

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Patriots expect an improved Jets QB Geno Smith – Jennifer Toland

Patriots’ Jamie Collins to follow Jerod Mayo’s lead – Jennifer Toland

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

Foxboro teen has positive outlook on life, disease in HBO film – Christine Igo Freeman