Stevan Ridley was Rotoworld’s No. 9 running back for Week 1. David Wilson was No. 14. This week, they could both be No. 2 — on the depth chart.
That’s what four fumbles — three lost, two returned for touchdowns and one narrowly overturned on review — will do for you in the National Football League, particularly if you’re playing for coaches who have combined for five of the past 12 Super Bowl titles.
But it’s worth noting, even Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin were willing to forgive one fumble. But two? What is even the meaning of two fumbles? Are they mistakes worthy of the existential gloom hanging over Wilson, Ridley and their fantasy owners today? Unforgivable trespasses that must forever alter careers that were for all intents and purposes, bright, heading into Sunday’s games?
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Well, it depends on who is behind you, and what’s behind you. In both players’ case, the what that’s dogging them is the same: A history of putting the ball on the ground. The who couldn’t be more different, however. For Wilson, it’s Da’Rel Scott, a 2011 seventh-round pick who entered Week 1 with 11 career carries for 25 yards (2.3 YPC). He averaged 2.5 yards on his 15 preseason totes. In other words, he’s not a viable replacement for Wilson. Despite some post-game saber rattling, even Coughlin seemed to admit this, saying “(Wilson’s) still very much in our thoughts. ... He’s got to play.” Coughlin may never want to see Wilson again, but he knows he’s going to have to give him the damn ball. Bringing in a veteran free agent — of whom the Giants are working out many — isn’t going to change that. Wilson is going to get another chance, and will probably end up a high-end FLEX option for Week 2.
Ridley, on the other hand, isn’t being chased by a day-three career backup. He’s dealing with a player who went 17 picks ahead of him in the 2011 draft, and played like it on Sunday. All offseason, Shane Vereen’s role was the subject of intrigue. Would he monopolize third-down touches? Would he help fill the Patriots’ hole on the outside by occasionally splitting out wide? The answers were “yes” and “yes.” What we didn’t know is how he’d look between the tackles if given the chance. We have the answer: Damn good. Perhaps as good as Ridley.
It was only one afternoon, of course, but Vereen looked like a back who’d have little trouble playing all three downs if given the opportunity, and a fed up Belichick might do just that on Thursday against the Jets. At least for one more week, Ridley is probably going to have to think about what he’s done. More than likely, it won’t be from the bench, but rather a reserve role. It’s impossible to ever truly know what the iconoclastic Belichick has in store, but consider Vereen an RB2 for Week 2, with Ridley a boom-or-bust FLEX option. One thing working in Ridley’s favor? If there’s one thing Belichick would love more than sending a message to his fumbling running back, it’s humiliating the Jets. He’s not going to do anything that compromises that mission, i.e., giving run to LeGarrette Blount over Ridley.
At the end of the day, one bad game isn’t going to make or break either player’s year. But they have to break in some direction or other. Wilson’s circumstances suggest mercy. Ridley’s suggest tough love, and some extra time on the pine.
Update 1:45 PM ET 9/9/2013: Well, so much for that. Per FOX's Jay Glazer, Vereen will miss multiple weeks with a broken wrist. Ridley lives, wrecking my first "Morning After" in the process.
The Raiders/Terrelle Pryor
Despite what Raiders fans might think after Sunday’s near miracle, this is still a 1-2 win team. The talent just isn’t there. But the Raiders deserve a ton of credit for not only playing like they have no idea how overmatched they are, but not taking the easy way out. That would have been starting Matt Flynn, traditional pocket passer, and his $6.5 million salary. By going with hybrid quarterback Terrelle Pryor — an unproven pet project of eccentric departed owner Al Davis, and a Tebow-esque passer — the Raiders risked even greater humiliation, but also did something they desperately needed to do: Add some unpredictability to their ramshackle roster. Flynn’s noodle arm would have provided the predictable air of death to Oakland’s offense. Instead they went with Pryor, who is going to make spectacular mistakes — like the second pick he threw on Sunday — but also give the Raiders a fighting chance every now and then. No one wants to go full Tebow, but as the Raiders found out on Sunday, there are worse routes for teams whose talent is so predictably terrible.
Put simply, this guy is so good, it’s scary. Still wrongly perceived as more of a runner than a thrower, Kaepernick peeled away the final layer of the “running QB” onion on Sunday, dismantling a team that spent all summer preparing for the read option by throwing for 412 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 22 yards rushing were two more than Blaine Gabbert had against the Chiefs. Kaepernick can run, but he’s a passer first, and the 49ers can barely be defensed because of it.
There are three certainties with Danny Amendola: He will catch passes, he will get hurt and he’ll be tough as nails while doing so. Pats fans were treated to the full Amendola experience in his New England inaugural on Sunday, watching as he aggravated his lingering groin injury in the second quarter, only to return after halftime and make seven absolutely critical catches for an offense that was going nowhere. Amendola is going to miss games this season. That’s almost a given. But when he’s on the field, there will be no better safety valve for Tom Brady, who appeared without one for the first half of Sunday’s game.
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