FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sure, it’s just the first preseason game. And yes, he’s only a rookie.
But Patriots fans have to be a little bit excited after watching Stevan Ridley dart into the end zone three times in Thursday night’s preseason-opening win over the Jaguars.
The third-round pick (73rd overall) in April’s NFL draft wasn’t even the first running back the Patriots took in the draft -- that honor went to Cal’s Shane Vereen in the second round -- but if his performance Thursday night is any indication, Ridley could quickly become a fixture in the Patriots’ backfield.
“I’m just being a football player and I’m just doing what the coaches ask me to do,” Ridley said, exhibiting consummate rookie form in answering questions from the media. “They want me to be a downhill runner and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Not only did Ridley show he could be a downhill runner on Thursday night, but the 5-foot-11, 225-pound cannonball of a running back also showed an ability to make defenders miss.
Ridley tallied 64 yards on 16 carries, including two touchdown runs, while leading the team with seven receptions for 47 yards and another touchdown.
“God’s blessed me to go out there and have a lot of talents, [to] go out there and do a lot of things: catching the ball, running it, and just trying to be an all-around back,” Ridley said.
After having signed in time for the start of training camp, Ridley has been one of the steadiest rookie performers thus far in practices, getting an early jump on Vereen, who has missed all but one practice with an injury.
“It was truly a blessing to be out here on the field, and be out here playing my dream,” Ridley said.
Despite his early success, it appears that the 22-year-old will approach the future as any rookie should, taking the highs and the lows in stride.
“I’m nowhere close to perfect and I just have a lot of work to do. I’m not satisfied and I’m sure the coaches aren’t either,” Ridley said. “I’m going to continue to work hard every day and try to do my best to help this team improve and get better.”
It’s just one game, and it’s a crowded position where Ridley will have to compete to see playing time. But if he can follow up on his performance from Thursday night, the future is bright for the latest hot hand in the Patriots’ backfield.
“I’m just going to continue to be [myself] and help this team out,” Ridley said. “That’s all I can do.”