After Stevan Ridley racked up 1,263 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns last season, he seemed like one of the safer fantasy running back options. With those numbers as a baseline and being the featured back for a typically potent New England Patriots offense, why wouldn't we have expected a big statistical performance from him again in 2014? Well, here we are in Week 3, and the Pats offense is stuck in neutral and Ridley has 86 rushing yards, a 3.4 yards-per-carry average and zero touchdowns.
Clearly, the Pats' ongoing issues in the passing game are a major issue, but so, too, is their run blocking. ESPN NFL Insider KC Joyner notes just how bad that element has been.
"The Patriots rushing game also has many question marks. Topping this list is New England's 38.4 percent good blocking rate. This metric measures how often an offensive blocking unit gives its ball carriers good blocking, which is roughly defined as when the offense doesn't allow the defense to disrupt a rush attempt. This is well below the Patriots 49.8 percent GBR in 2012 that finished third in the league," Joyner noted. "Stevan Ridley has posted a solid 8.2-yard mark in the good blocking yards per attempt metric, but unless the line's GBR starts to move upward, he is going to have few opportunities in those conditions."
The Pats schedule isn't exactly rush-friendly, either. Of the seven teams they'll face leading up to their Week 10 bye, only the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed more than 90.0 rushing yards per game over their first two contests. That's a small sample size, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins all could present problems against the Pats rushing attack.
On the upside, if Tom Brady, et al, can get the offense moving, Ridley should still provide help to fantasy teams as an end-zone threat. Still, it looks like Ridley may have an uphill climb this season and may be worth shipping off in a trade if he manages to squeeze out a good game in the coming weeks.