The stories coming out of Friday night’s Patriots preseason were mostly positive, but there was one issue that reared its ugly head yet again.
The issue was Stevan Ridley’s fumbling, and with the fourth-year running back continuing to struggle with ball security despite an obvious emphasis from the coaching staff to focus on it, the question must be asked: Are you worried about Ridley?
Andy Gresh said Friday night’s fumble wasn’t a huge deal, and the fact that it came in the preseason allowed Bill Belichick to use it as a coaching moment.
“I know Belichick jumped on it, because it’s a very easy way to reinforce it with the running back, but I don’t know, it didn’t bother me as much as it did other people,” Gresh said. “On social media, he kind of took a bit of a beating.”
After losing the ball against Philadelphia, Ridley was placed on the sideline, and he didn’t get another chance to touch the football.
Scott Zolak said that Ridley is still the guy the Patriots want running the ball on the majority of first and second down plays, but fumbles like Friday night’s can make that role difficult.
“I said it during the broadcast, right before he had it stripped out,” Zolak said. “I said as good as he’s running, he needs 50 consecutive of those type of runs where he needs to prove it not only to himself and his teammates, but to fans, that ‘I’m the guy, I’ve learned from my mishaps and I’ve corrected my mistakes.’ That’s a big one for him. Putting the ball on the ground is a big thing for Ridley. That’s what we all fear, that’s what we all worry about. But I don’t want him to change his style and how he runs.”
Over the weekend, Belichick was asked about Ridley’s fumble. Even though the fumble essentially turned out to be a non-event — with James Develin recovering the loose ball and with replays showing Ridley’s knee was likely down before he lost control — Belichick said any such play is treated as a significant one in a game.
“We always talk about ball security, taking care of the ball. There’s nothing that correlates more to winning and losing than turnovers, so that’s always a high priority for us,” Belichick said. “We never want the ball out, and on the other side of the ball — defensively and in the kicking game — we always try to get it out. Sometimes when we get the ball out, we don’t recover it or sometimes when we get it out they blow it dead, but we always want to try to do that. The same goes true for the offensive side of the ball. We don’t want plays where they end up with the ball, whether they’re ruled in our favor or not. Guys that have an interception in their hands but drop it or plays where the ball gets away from us, whether we recover it or it goes out of bounds or they recover it, those are all plays we’re trying to avoid, obviously. They do matter. So do the ones that, same thing on defense, the plays that we get out, we don’t get them all but the more we get them out, the more we’ll get, so they are significant.”
Gresh posed the question: Would you trade Ridley if it could get a No. 2 tight end in return?
“Give up Ridley? No,” Zolak said. “Hell no.”