Ridley had a strong showing in the preseason but didn't get much of an opportunity in the first two weeks of the regular season. It's all changed over the last two weeks, when he has amassed a team-high 139 yards on just 16 carries. The third-round pick had 10 rushes for 97 yards and his first career touchdown during Sunday's 31-19 victory against the Raiders.
Ridley has plenty of power between the tackles, but he displayed a new level of speed to the outside to get through the secondary on his 33-yard scoring scamper. He looks like the most explosive running back at the Patriots' disposal, and he'll provide a good complementary style to BenJarvus Green-Ellis if the two share the brunt of the workload.
"We're just playing ball, and however the coaches use us, that's how we go out there and try to be a dominant effective unit as a whole complete backfield," Ridley said Friday. "We don't want to fall off any between [Danny Woodhead], Shane [Vereen], Benny and me. We want to be solid in there. We have [Kevin Faulk] in there, also, and until he comes back, he's coaching us from the sideline. We just have to be solid as a whole unit, as a running back corps."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has used his running backs in waves over the past few years, so a couple of strong performances from Ridley doesn't necessarily mean he'll take over as the team's top option. However, it does give the Patriots another commodity who has proven it on the field, even if it's just been on a limited basis.
Green-Ellis, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, has been adored by the coaching staff throughout his tenure in New England. He's dependable and powerful between the tackles, but his breakaway speed isn't on the same level as Ridley and Woodhead.
It's a small sample size, but Ridley has taken his short opportunities and yielded long rewards. He's got 150 yards on 19 carries this season, and his 7.9 yards per carry can't be ignored, either.
Ridley has been consistently humble and unassuming throughout his brief tenure in New England, and he has preached hard work through the backfield competition. He's also a team-first guy who believes that the coaching staff will put the running backs in an opportunity to succeed with their individual skill sets.
For Ridley, he's been enjoying his chance and taking his run through the professional ranks to the best of his ability. He's adapted that rookie mindset that he still doesn't know a whole lot, so he has spent each day trying to make himself a better player.
"You never know everything, so you have to go out there each day and take in the coaching," Ridley said. "It's not really one thing. I've been around the game a long time, but you learn to go out there and critique things and learn the small details on things more than others. We're athletes. We're here for a reason. We work hard as a team. For us, we just have to go out there and try to pay attention to the small things and try to get as close to perfect as we can."
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