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Cardinals Vs. Patriots: Looking At Stevan Ridley And Chandler Jones

In their Week 1 win two players jumped out, one on each side of the ball, which could be the beginning of the Patriots reshaping their image -- running back Stevan Ridley and defensive end Chandler Jones.


The Arizona Cardinals have the tough task of flying across the country to take on the New England Patriots in a 1:00 PM ET game on Sunday.

Remember with the Cardinals that means on their body clock it's 10:00 AM PT. I do wonder if Coach Whisenhunt has asked the players to adjust their schedule accordingly so they are used to East Coast time when they get to Massachusetts.

Bill Belichick's squad is coming off an impressive 34-13 stomping of the Tennessee Titans on the road.

In their Week 1 win two players jumped out, one on each side of the ball, which could be the beginning of the Patriots reshaping their image -- running back Stevan Ridley and defensive end Chandler Jones.

Ridley, the second year pro out of LSU, ran for 125 yards with a touchdown on 21 carries. The 21 carries was a career high and so was the 125 yards.

To take it a step further, since 2004 when Corey Dillon had 345 carries and was given the ball 21 times or more in 10 out of 16 games, only 18 times has a Pats running back received 21 or more hand offs in a single game. (Kevin Faulk twice, BenJarvus Green-Ellis four, Fred Taylor once, Sammy Morris once, Laurence Maroney five, Corey Dillon five). In that span 112 games have been played.

The question needs to be posed is Bill Belichick returning to a one running back system?

As a coach Belichick always plays according to his personnel, not to a certain philosophy. If the talent on defense dictates to play a 4-3 he plays a 4-3, if it makes sense to run a 3-4 he will use a 3-4, if he can run both he will run both.

Since Corey Dillon declined after the 2004 season New England hasn't had a running back with the talent to be worthy of that many carries. Laurence Maroney was supposed to be that guy, but he never lived up to the expectations.

In limited carries as a rookie Ridley averaged just over five yards a carry. It was a small sample size with a high success rate.

Then the third round pick exploded onto the scene with his Week 1 performance. What made him successful and what should the Cardinals be looking for? Let's examine.

According to Pro Football Focus (whose numbers will be used throughout the story) 13 of the 21 carries went to the left side of the offensive line, while only eight went to the right. New England didn't have one run play go between its center and right guard or right guard and right tackle. The right guard position also happened to grade out the lowest of all the positions in their offensive line.

When going back and watching what New England did last week their bread and butter run plays were zone block schemes where the offensive line fired off the ball and shifted as a group allowing Ridley to pick hole to blast through.

If you go in preparing just for that Belichick will get you because the Pats also like to mix it up with some more traditional power runs using a pulling guard.

On the other side of the ball first round pick Chandler Jones was a menace. He piled up one sack, one quarterback hit and two QB hurries, while playing 58 out of a possible 63 snaps. Jones was far from one dimensional as he was also disruptive in the run game.

The Syracuse product lined up exclusively on the right hand side, which means he will be Cardinals left tackle D'Anthony Batiste's problem. Last week Batiste struggled with Seahawks end Chris Clemons.

Don't let the only playing on the right side fool you, Jones was used in a variety of ways, in a multitude of schemes. Sometimes he would have his hand down as a 4-3 end, a 3-4 OLB with his hands up, plus other sub packages. Even within those above broader contexts how the versatile rookie was used could be taken another step further, but someone who understands football at a higher level than me would be needed to explain.

Chandler Jones and company have the opportunity to put the Patriots into the top five of yards against and points against for the first time since 2007. The bend, but don't break defense that has been prevalent in New England is on the way out.

The Cardinals are playing an extremely good Patriots team just like you would expect, but what they have to deal with will be a little bit different than what we have seen from the men of Foxboro in recent years.

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