When the Patriots run
This is a deep stable of running backs. Stevan Ridley is the lead horse, and the 5-foot-11-inch, 225-pounder keeps improving. Ridley runs square and hard and always keeps his legs churning. He has good vision and will sift his way through traffic before bursting through creases. Ridley is not a classic speed demon but shows good acceleration at the second level. He will make tacklers miss but he also has absorbed his share of big hits, but usually bounces right back up. Shane Vereen continues to tease with flashes of brilliance. This could be his breakout season. The 5-10, 205-pounder is a versatile player (he can catch, too) with good vision and burst. He runs low and can spin out of hits. He’s fluid and has great balance. Brandon Bolden is a hard, upright runner who does a great job following his blockers. Bolden (5-11, 220) will finish his runs with a flourish. LeGarrette Blount (6 feet, 250) has excellent size and instincts. He’s lighter on his feet than you might expect but he does have the power to push the pile. This group gets to run behind a punishing interior trio of center Ryan Wendell (he’s smart) and guards Logan Mankins (he’s vicious) and Dan Connolly (he’s underrated). Nose tackle Marcell Dareus (6-3, 319) has the size and strength to toss aside blockers and pursue the ball. He moves well laterally. He’ll work to create room for rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has a nifty blend of speed, power, and intensity.