FOXBORO, Mass. — Stevan Ridley‘s two rushing touchdowns in the Patriots’ preseason opener epitomized his talent as a hard-nosed, powerful runner. His receiving touchdown might have been an indication of an untapped amount of potential.
Ridley scored three times and had 111 yards from scrimmage (64 rushing, 47 receiving) Thursday, as the Patriots stomped the Jaguars, 47-12, at Gillette Stadium. The third-round pick from LSU has been one of the stars of training camp, and he put that on display under the lights Thursday.
“I just went out there and just played ball,” said Ridley, who wears No. 22 in honor of Emmitt Smith. “I’m just very thankful for the coaches to put me in the opportunities that I had. It’s truly a blessing to be out here on the field, and out here playing my dream and doing that.”
Ridley didn’t have a first-class ticket during his initial trip to the end zone. He plowed into the line and mercilessly used his legs to drive through a defender and roll across the goal line for a one-yard score.
For his second score, he fought off a pair of Jaguars just shy of the goal line before spinning out of a tackle to glide in for the score. Each time, Ridley proved that he’s brutally tough to take down and his instincts for the end zone are top notch. And to think what he might be able to accomplish when the Patriots trot out their starting offensive line, which was restricted to the sideline against the Jags.
“I’m just being a football player, just doing what the coaches ask me to do,” Ridley said. “They want me to be a downhill runner, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. If that’s what this team needs me to do, that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Ridley has always had the reputation for being a menacing runner, but his skills in the passing game have been a bit of a mystery. In practice, he’s performed well in one-on-one blocking drills against linebackers, and he has also showed an ability to catch the ball over the middle and in the flat.
He raced past a linebacker on a well-designed wheel route to the left side before Ryan Mallett tossed a perfectly placed pass over Ridley’s shoulder. The rookie running back made the catch and scored without a hitch. Ridley’s game-high seven receptions showed that he can be a lot more versatile than a brute who earns his money between the tackles.
“I just go out there and be a football player,” Ridley said. “God has blessed me with a lot of talent. He’s blessed me just to be out there and have a lot of talents, just to go out there and do a lot of things, catching the ball and running, try to be an all-around back. I’m nowhere close to perfect, and I just have a lot of work to do. I’m not satisfied, and I’m sure the coaches aren’t either, so I’m going to continue to work hard every day and try to do my best and help this team improve to get better.”