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Stevan Ridley's days as Patriots 'lead back' might be over

Stevan Ridley was benched on Sunday, but will he ever get his job back as New England's No. 1 running back?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Plagued by recent fumble issues, Stevan Ridley was a healthy inactive on Sunday and now his status with New England going forward is in question.

Ridley was benched in Week 12 after losing a fumble early in the game against Denver. It was his fourth fumble of the season and the third in three games. All four fumbles resulted in turnovers, making the situation even worse. The benching continued into last week and he was among New England's seven inactive players, despite being healthy.

Now, the question is what will happen moving forward. If you take away the fumble issues, Ridley has been a solid player for the Patriots. The fumbles, however, have diminished that success and the Patriots have considerable running back depth. At least one Patriots beat writer doesn't expect Ridley to ever regain the feature back role he once held.

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com said he thinks the days of Ridley being the No. 1 running back are over:

I know some view it as a break-him-down-and-build-him-back type of situation with Ridley. I don't see it that way, as I think the days of Ridley as the lead back, logging 45 percent of the offensive snaps, are probably over. I'm interested to see if that gut feeling is correct.

While that may be true, Ridley could also play his way back into that role. The Patriot running backs combined to average 3.3 yards per carry against Houston. Ridley is averaging 4.3 YPC this season and has a career average of 4.5 YPC. If he can solve his fumbling issues, he might still be the Patriots most effective runner.

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