- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rookie running back Stevan Ridley delivers a stiff-arm Saturday vs. Miami.Rookie Stevan Ridley tied his season-high with 28 snaps in Saturday's win over the Dolphins -- more than any Patriots' running back in the game -- which seemed to reflect the coaching staff's growing confidence in him. Ridley played eight snaps in the first half, and 20 in the second half, as he had the ball in his hands in some critical moments.
The third-round draft choice out of LSU looks like the team's most explosive running back, and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was asked about him on his weekly conference call.
"I think he's a guy that's been improving every week," O'Brien said. "Early in the season, in the Oakland game, he had some productive runs for us. We've just been trying every week to get him in there and it just seemed like in the flow of the game, and the way the game was going, we were trying to play at a fast pace and he happened to be the back that was in there. He had a couple good runs. Again, he was the guy we stayed with based on what was going on in that game."
How does Ridley, who had 64 yards on 13 carries against the Dolphins, complement the team's other backs?
"He's a bigger guy," O'Brien answered. "I think he's a slashing type of runner. I think they all have unique talents that they bring to the position. He's just a guy that fit in pretty well at that position. He's got a little bit of size and things like that. He's going to continue to improve and try to get better at the nuances of playing that position. That's a very, very difficult position to play as a rookie because you're involved in so many different things -- running game, blitz pickup, passing game, route running vs. zone [and] vs. man. There are so many things go into that playing that position, and he's gotten better but he has a long way to go."
Director of player personnel Nick Caserio was also asked his thoughts on Ridley's rookie season.
"I'd say it's probably been similar to a lot of rookies, some ups and downs. He's had a few games where he's had some production, but I'd say that whole position in general, they've all given us production when they've been on the field," Caserio said. "Benny has nine touchdowns, or whatever he has. Danny has given us a lot of good snaps. Kevin has played for us in sub. Shane, when he's been on the field, he's had an opportunity to make some contributions.
"So specific to Stevan, there have been some good plays and certainly some things I think he can improve on and work on. But he's taken advantage of his opportunities when he's been on the field."
Patriots running backs
BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- 5-foot-11, 215 pounds
Stevan Ridley -- 5-foot-11, 225 pounds
Danny Woodhead -- 5-foot-8, 195 pounds
Kevin Faulk -- 5-foot-8, 202 pounds
Shane Vereen -- 5-foot-9, 205 pounds