Examining Ridley's late-game workload

There weren't too many fans left in their Gillette Stadium seats in the fourth quarter, but those who did stay for the final stretch of Monday night's preseason loss to the Eagles might have seen something that caught their eye.

Stevan Ridley took all six hand-offs at running back in the fourth quarter, including the final three plays of the game. It was an odd sight, given that Ridley is expected to play a significant role in the backfield this season, filling, at least in part, the role left by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

It was a time in the game when teams typically put an inexperienced runner in the game to take carries and protect their top rushers from injury. Making the decision especially curious was the fact that Ridley played on Monday night despite leaving Thursday's practice early with a knee injury, and missing Friday's practice.

From a numbers standpoint, the Patriots are thin at running back, with just four on the roster. With Monday night beginning a stretch of three preseason games in 10 days, the tight schedule could explain why Ridley was in the game.

Still, how rare is it for to see one of the team's projected top backs receive carries so late? Over their last four second preseason games, the Patriots have always used their least experienced running back (among those active for the game) for fourth quarter carries (starters marked with an asterisk; fourth quarter running backs in bold):

2012: Shane Vereen*, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden

2011: BenJarvus Green-Ellis*, Danny Woodhead, Sammy Morris, Stevan Ridley

2010: Fred Taylor*, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Thomas Clayton

2009: Fred Taylor*, Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis

2008: Laurence Maroney*, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans, BenJarvus Green-Ellis