Stevan Ridley has been a top-five NFL running back this season.
But if he’s on your fantasy team, you might want to bench him this Sunday.
“Why?” you’re asking yourself. "He’s rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks. You’d have to be a fool to bench him!"
Perhaps. Or maybe you see that he’s fumbled the ball twice over the last two games, including one that was recovered late in the game against the Broncos that could have proven costly had Broncos running back Willis McGahee not returned the favor on the ensuing drive.
If there’s one thing Bill Belichick hates, it’s putting the ball on the ground. Once Ridley fumbled late last season, he didn’t sniff the postseason. Instead, Belichick went with trusty back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who at the time had not fumbled in his career.
Green-Ellis is gone now, but Belichick will still find ways to run the ball – whether it’s with Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, or even Shane Vereen.
Aside from Ridley, none of those other current Patriots backs have fumbled this season.
“We work on ball security with every player who handles the ball every week, every day,” Belichick said Monday. “So that includes everybody who touches the ball … we talk and work on ball security every day with everybody … it’s the highest priority of everybody.”
If that’s the case, Ridley should do a better job of holding the ball closer to his chest in traffic and protecting it with two hands.
Bolden, undrafted out of Mississippi, burst onto the scene in Week 4 when he rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also got the carries in place of Ridley at the end of the fourth quarter against Denver. Belichick won’t hesitate to reward the back that doesn’t put the team in jeopardy of losing, regardless of his production at that point in the game.
As for how Belichick will handle Ridley’s playing time going forward, he wasn’t exactly forthcoming. But at the same time, it doesn’t look bright for the second-year fumble-prone back.
“There’s nothing more important than possession of the ball,” Belichick said. “So we can’t afford to lose it. It’s as simple as that.”