New England Patriots: Stevan Ridley Will Bounce Back

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | It's no secret that Stevan Ridley has been off to a terrible start in 2013. But, offensively, who hasn't for the New England Patriots?

Tom Brady ranks 16th in the NFL in passing yards and has thrown just five touchdowns on the year. Much can be made of the fact that he's working with rookie receivers, no tight-end and a glorified special teamer--Julian Edelman--rather than his usual cast. But Brady himself has been off, and he's admitted to as much.

"I kind of just mind my own business and try to play quarterback as best I can. I wish I would have played better yesterday, but I'm happy we won," Brady told WEEI September 23 when asked about bringing back either Deion Branch or Brandon Lloyd.

Truthfully, neither would add as much to the offense as a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will in the coming weeks. Both are legitimate receiving threats and should force teams to concentrate on the passing game, opening up holes for Ridley to run through, something he's seen far too few of in the early stages of the season.

Ridley has also had the unfortunate pleasure of going against some pretty stout run-defenses. In yards per carry (YPC), the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both rank in the top 13. Even the Buffalo Bills rank above teams like the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, both thought to have suffocating defenses.

From here on out, the road doesn't get much easier. The average ranking of their remaining opponent is almost 14--just above average. However, with Brady and the passing game getting back on track, Ridley should find more room to run. His 4.4 career YPC speaks for itself. Performing this far under expectations--3.4 YPC in the first three games--is unlikely to sustain.

And Brandon Bolden's reemergence can only serve to help Ridley's numbers. Though his carries may dip a bit, having a strong 1-2 punch will throw teams off balance, especially with the different styles of play. In Week 3, Bolden was a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, hauling in 5 passes for 49 yards. Ridley has only caught 10 for 72 in his career.

The more weapons the Patriots discover, the better for Ridley.

As the season wears on, Ridley's value goes up. While the ball may be spread around a bit more, when Ridley does touch the ball, he'll be able to be more productive with his opportunities. And that's all you can ask.

Andrew Luistro has followed the Red Sox and Patriots for over 20 years. He also writes for the The Hockey Writers and Sunbelt Hockey Journal.

Follow him on Twitter @ndrewL7.

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