Ridley makes strong first impression

Ridley makes strong first impression
August 12, 2011, 4:25 am
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By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn

FOXBORO First impressions have a way of sticking around for a long time.

New England Patriots rookie Stevan Ridley hopes that old axiom holds true to form after an impressive performance in the New England Patriots' 47-12 preseason win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In a Standing Room Only-like backfield, Ridley's play stood out from the rest on Thursday night.

He led the rushing brigade for New England with 64 yards on 16 carries, which included a pair of touchdown runs. Known as a powerful, hard-running back at LSU, Ridley showed that he can be a factor in the Patriot's passing game as well.

In addition to his rushing numbers, he also had 7 catches for 47 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown.

"I just go out there and be a football player," said Ridley, selected by the Patriots in the third round of this past spring's NFL draft. "I'm just doing what the coaches ask me to do. They want me to be a downhill runner. That's what I'm going to continue to do. If that's what this team needs me to do, that's what I'll continue to do."

But with so many talented players in the backfield, Ridley is out to prove that he can help the Pats in other areas as well - like the passing game.

When you look at the scouting reports on Ridley coming out of college, there was very little mention of his ability as a pass-catching threat coming out of the backfield.

Against Jacksonville, Ridley took the first step in answering any lingering questions about his hands.

"God has blessed me, just to get out there and be able to have a lot of talent, just to get out there and do a lot of things; catching the ball and running," said Ridley, who had 11 touchdown receptions as a junior at LSU. "Try to be an all-around back. I'm nowhere close to perfect. I just have a lot of work to do."

Not surprisingly, coach Bill Belichick agrees.

While acknowledging that Ridley did have "some good runs and "a couple good catches," Belichick saw areas in need of improvement as well.

"Routes, pass protection, couple run-reads that didn't look . . . we'll see how it looks on film," Belichick said. "It looked like he ran hard."

Running hard and with power has never been much of an issue for Ridley, who left LSU after a junior season in which he had 1,147 yards on the ground along with 15 rushing touchdowns.

But in his short time in the NFL, Ridley has seen enough to know he has a lot to still learn.

And the NFL lockout didn't help.

At a time when he would have been working with veterans and learning the playbook, Ridley, like the rest of his rookie class, have essentially been learning on the playbook on the fly while at the same time, trying to digest it enough to where they're just out there playing and not thinking so much about playing.

It puts a greater premium on surrounding him with sound veterans such as Sammy Morris, who tells CSNNE.com that Ridley has been one of the many rookies to ask lots of questions of the Patriot veterans.

"They're always asking, and we do our best to make them feel welcome in asking us," said Morris, a 12-year veteran. "Going back to this year being a different season compared to others (because of the lockout), it's going to be tougher for the rookies having not ever seen an NFL playbook or an NFL defense or anything. But not just him, all our rookies, they're doing a good job of trying to learn what they can, making adjustments and being coachable and talking to a lot of the vets as well."

And while Ridley's strong performance in his first NFL game certainly gives him every reason to feel confident moving forward, by no means is he putting too much stock in it.

It was a preseason game against a Jacksonville team that, like the Patriots, rested a number of key players.

Preseason or not, Ridley refuses to get too high about his play.

"I'm not satisfied," Ridley said. "I'm sure the coaches aren't, either. I'm going to continue to work hard every day and try to do my best and help this team improve and get better."

Which is the kind of lasting impression that bodes well for him as well as the Patriots.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.