TORONTO - If the name Stevan Ridley doesn’t ring a bell with you just yet, it will soon.
The Patriots running back had the kind of career-changing game in Oakland on the weekend that can lead to a fast rise up the depth chart.
As it stands now, Ridley, a rookie out of LSU, would still be considered behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the depth chart but Ridley has outplayed Green-Ellis in back-to-back weeks now so a jump wouldn’t be all that surprising.
Ridley has about 10 pounds on Green-Ellis with both measuring 5-foot-11, but it’s Ridley who has shown the better breakaway speed.
Green-Ellis saw his own fortunes jump a year ago when his carries went from five to 10 to 16 by Week 3. He also scored in Week 3 for the first time that season and would score five more touchdowns over the next four weeks, solidifying his job.
This year, Green-Ellis has had the majority of the work since opening day despite Ridley’s strong training camp and an 8.2 yards per carry average since the season began.
But tracking Ridley’s workload since Week 1, it looks very much like Green-Ellis’ did a year ago.
Since Week 2, when he saw his first action, Ridley’s carries have gone from two to six to 10.
Among those 10 on the weekend in Oakland was a 33-yard touchdown run.
Green-Ellis got 16 carries in the game but finished with 22 yards fewer than the 97 Ridley racked up in just 10 carries.
Danny Woodhead began the season with 16 carries in Week 1 but has seen his workload shrink. He limped off the field on Sunday before the half with a suspected ankle injury and did not return.
Reading the tea leaves, it looks like Ridley is in for a more involved role but you never know with Bill Belichick. It’s no secret he values Green-Ellis highly and has shown a preference for sharing the touches out of the backfield in the past.
NOT EXACTLY A SLY FOX
The Tim Tebow bandwagon in Denver is overflowing, while Kyle Orton supporters are few and far between. Fortunately for Orton, Broncos head coach John Fox remains firmly in his corner.
Even after a three-interception afternoon against Green Bay, Fox was barely tempted to give the fans a taste of Tebow. He relented but only for one play, a quarterback run that netted minus-1 yards.
Asked after the game why he wouldn’t stay with Tebow, Fox basically said he gave Tebow a chance and it didn’t work out.
He then reiterated his previous stance that Orton was the quarterback he feels gives the Broncos the best chance to win.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a strained foot, not a broken one, but his availability for this weekend’s game with Tennessee remains up in the air. When Roethlisberger was seen in a walking boot and on crutches following Pittsburgh’s loss in Houston on Sunday, it was feared the foot was broken. Pittsburgh is breathing a whole lot easier today ... Philadelphia also caught a break in that defensive end Trent Cole has a calf strain that should keep him out of the lineup no longer than three weeks. When Cole was taken from the field, initial reports described the injury as potentially season-ending ... The news is not as good for the Patriots, who are looking at being without linebacker and defensive captain Jerod Mayo for as long as six weeks. Mayo, who led the NFL in tackles last year, sprained the MCL in his left knee in his team’s win over Oakland.
THIRD AND SHORT
You may have noticed the lack of a familiar Hank Williams Jr. intro to Monday Night Football. It turns out ESPN was not willing to be associated with Hank Jr. after he basically compared U.S. President Barack Obama to Hitler. Williams has done the intro for Monday Night Football for the past 20 years ... The Miami Dolphins have plenty of problems, but Brandon Marshall shouldn’t be one of them. Unfortunately he’s not exactly catching the ball a whole lot when it’s thrown to him. Marshall has been targetted 39 times this year but has actually caught only 22 for a 56.4% success rate. If Marshall wants to be considered among the elite receivers, that number has to come up dramatically ... Donovan McNabb is winless in Minnesota but head coach Leslie Frazier is sticking with him. Frazier didn’t give McNabb any glowing endorsements yesterday so he’s either convinced Christian Ponder isn’t quite ready or he’s not willing to subject Ponder to the league just yet ... The excuse Philadelphia’s Ronnie Brown gave for basically giving the ball to the San Francisco 49ers when he got stopped at the goal line and tried to throw it away is laughable. “I was trying to out-think myself a little bit,” Brown said after the game. “It was a pass play and I was thinking, once the guy slipped off, just try to throw the ball away and give us another chance for fourth down — not take a loss where we can go for it on fourth down, if possible. I’ve just got to make a better decision with the ball.” Yeah, like maybe hold on to it next time.
WEEK 4 SIZZLER
A.J. Green already has had some big moments in his rookie season and we could have easily given this one to his quarterback Andy Dalton, but the Bengals wideout gets the nod for a few remarkable catches in the win over Buffalo. Julio Jones, the other big wideout in the 2010 draft, also had a big week, but Green’s catches (4 for 108 yards) were more pivotal to the outcome. And Green has been in the end zone twice already this year. Jones has yet to get there.
WEEK 4 FIZZLER
Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert has a steep learning curve but he actually has regressed since he got the job. Gabbert, with a proven running game, put the ball in the air 42 times on Sunday and completed just 16. He put the ball in Maurice Jones-Drew’s hands just 11 times despite being down just 14-10 at the half. It may be the play-calling or it could be Gabbert changing things up at the line. For his sake, we hope it’s the former.