Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/16/14
FOXBORO, Mass. — By now, it’s really no secret how much of a challenge the Patriots’ offense faces heading into this season. With its top five receivers from last season now gone, it’s up to just about everybody to step up and replenish the production that made the Patriots the highest scoring offense in the NFL last season. But while much has been made — and rightly so — about how the team’s young cast of receivers will need to grow up quickly, it should be mentioned that the Patriots’ rushing game could also help ease the load on Tom Brady and the passing attack. It starts with Stevan Ridley, who broke out last season in his second season as a pro, racking up 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Much of the same is expected out of the speedy back this season, and if he can at least sniff those numbers again, it would come as a welcome sign for the offense. But it doesn’t stop at Ridley, either. Perhaps lost in the shuffle is that the Patriots actually have two former 1,000-yard running backs on their roster after the offseason acquisition of LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 1,007 yards in his first of three seasons with Tampa Bay.  Add in the versatile Shane Vereen and the powerful Brandon Bolden, and suddenly you have one of the deepest running back groups in the league. And according to Ridley, while they may be a young bunch — those four backs have a combined eight seasons worth of experience — the group has all the tools needed to excel. “It’s a bunch of different-style runners, but I think we have pretty much every runner that we need,” Ridley said after Tuesday’s practice. “We got receivers out of the backfield, we have power runners, we have slashers and we have all-around fullbacks that are coming in and making an impression. We’re going to work as one unit, we’re going to get it done however we need to get it done on the ground.” One of those things that may need to be done is helping out in the passing game when needed. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Patriots operate under a pass-happy scheme with Brady at the helm of the offense, so when you consider the inexperience and lack of familiarity the quarterback has with the receivers and tight ends now on the roster, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that Brady could steer toward his backs for support. Last season, Ridley, Vereen and Bolden combined for only 16 receptions and 29 targets. Factor in that Blount isn’t the biggest of pass catchers either (one reception last season), and there will certainly be a learning curve to go through. No one is expecting the running backs to put together the kind of numbers that Wes Welker did a year ago, but an increase in production this season almost seems like a formality rather than a question. Ridley, at least, is up for that kind of challenge. “I’m trying to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” he said. “If I need to line up in the backfield or line up at receiver, I’m going to do it all.” Of course, the actual running game will be just as important — perhaps more so this year than ever. A consistent ground attack could mean the difference with this Patriots’ offense. It could keep defenses honest, help space out the field for Brady to operate with his new receivers and keep defenses from overloading the box and pressuring the quarterback — the latter of which was one of the reasons the team fell short in last year’s AFC Championship Game to the Ravens. There are certainly many questions surrounding the offense, but motivation doesn’t seem to be one of them. Seasons like Ridley had in 2012 may give some players an exaggerated sense of entitlement, but it doesn’t appear anyone has to worry about the third-year back attaining that kind of label. “You gotta come in and better yourself,” Ridley said. “I’m not satisfied. I just gotta keep working, so that’s my expectation is to keep moving and keep climbing that ladder in the coaches’ mind.” And if he, as well as the rest of these balanced group of running backs, can do that, they could also realistically be climbing the ladder to a Super Bowl. Filed under: New England Patriots, Stephen Hewitt, Top Stories
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

How much will Rousey and Zingano make for their fight?

Browns agree to three-year deal with Josh McCown

Peterson releases statement, no mention of the Vikings

Bulls general manager expects Derrick Rose back in 4-6 weeks

Ray Allen reportedly will not sign with Cavaliers if he returns

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Shane Vereen squashes rumor he wants $5 million per season

Jon Gruden on Meyer: 'Greatest coaching job of all time'

Vince Young to work out at NFL Veteran Combine

Report: Mike Wallace unwilling to restructure contract

Report: Colts targeting Brandon Marshall

Rakeem Christmas leads Syracuse in exercise of futility

WATCH: Knicks' Alexey Shved tosses wild pass into stands

Ten players ready to make the leap in 2015

WATCH: Reggie Bush says he won't quit football

PHOTO: ECHL team will wear Dr. Seuss jerseys

Report: Baron Davis in talks to join a contending team

Earl Lloyd and basketball’s cruel February

Pirates issue statement about ISIS executioner in team hat

WATCH: Dress debate threatens to derail Brooklyn Nets’ season

FIFA gave Fox the 2026 World Cup to avoid a lawsuit

WATCH: Charles Barkley rips analytics... again

Dark horse World Series contenders in 2015

The Jacksonville Jaguars need to step up

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Earl Lloyd and basketball’s cruel February

WATCH: Barkley rips analytics again

A-Rod: A con man returns to baseball

Bostick death threats show why some fans take sports too seriously

Russell Westbrook is surging into the MVP conversation

Five-round NFL Mock Draft

Key offseason moves for every MLB team

Rousey, Arianny Celeste get into it

Dallas sportscaster back with another powerful essay

The parallels of Rose and Hardaway

Offseason breakdown for all 32 NFL teams

On Josh Hamilton's addiction and feeling alone

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.