Stevan Ridley does not have fumbling issues. Or, at least, his minor fumbling issues have been greatly overblown for the past 10 months.
He gained a reputation for fumblitis after losing a ball out of bounds in Week 17 and then turning one over in the playoff game against the Broncos. Literally, the only stories you saw about Ridley in the offseason were about his "fumbling issues," even though the only fumble he actually lost came when the Patriots were winning 42-7 in the third quarter.
A mental lapse during a blowout? Sure. A bonafide fumbling problem? Not quite.
Now, he's got two fumbles (one turnover) in consecutive games again, putting a bit of a blemish on Sunday's 151-yard rushing performance. To me though, in that hurry-up offense, for Ridley to fumble on his 28th carry of the day is more an indication that he was exhausted than anything else.
So technically, there is a minor fumbling issue, but his fumbles thus far can be attributed to losing focus during a blowout and simply being gassed late in a game. Both of those areas can be improved, but that shouldn't lead to too much concern regarding Ridley.
A real fumbling issue is what we saw with Kevin Faulk at the beginning of his career, when he had six fumbles in his second season in the NFL. Those were true fumbling issues that came as a result of being unable to keep the ball tight to his chest and hold tight after impact.
Ridley doesn't have that problem, and his issues are much easier to correct. There's not too much to worry about here.
I wouldn’t say I’m concerned about Ridley’s fumbling, but that will easily change if he coughs up another in the coming weeks.
Some people are forgetting that he also fumbled two weeks ago in Buffalo, since the ball went out of bounds and the Patriots retained possession.
Last season, Ridley had two fumbles (one lost) in 91 carries during the regular season and playoffs. His fumble in the AFC Divisional round against the Broncos was his last carry of the season – thanks to his inability to hold on to the ball over a two-game span.
That’s what has happened so far this season. He has two fumbles (one lost) over his last 29 attempts; startling numbers for a New England starting running back.
Ridley’s fumble Sunday against the Broncos came at the most inopportune time, with the Broncos down by just 10 in the fourth quarter. Willis McGahee’s butterfingers helped take most of the attention off Ridley, but he didn’t see the field again after, with Brandon Bolden tabbed with the task of killing the clock the rest of the way.
While it’s a small sample, the fact is Ridley has put the ball on the ground four times in the 18 NFL games (193 carries) he’s played in. Dating back to his days at LSU, he fumbled three times over 39 games on 306 carries. It appears that this new trend could just be him getting acclimated to a harder-hitting NFL game, as well as becoming the premiere back in New England.
There is some concern with Ridley’s problems holding onto the ball, based mostly on the fact that the departed BenJarvis Green-Ellis never fumbled in a Patriots uniform. If it continues, then he should start to lose some playing time.
But for now he should get the chance to make up for his mistakes. That’s the best way to learn.