The New England Patriots could have major changes in their offensive backfield when they take the field for the 2014 NFL regular season in week one. The biggest, potentially, could be the absence of running back Stevan Ridley.

A key part of New England’s rushing attack in 2013 and a borderline star rusher in 2012, reports suggest Ridley could be on the outside looking in as the Patriots decide which players stay and which go.

Ridley has struggled throughout his career with ball security and was demoted for a short while last year due to fumble issues. He lost a fumble yet again during the preseason and that very fact, along with New England’s solid depth at running back, could potentially seal his fate.

Shane Vereen exploded onto the scene two years ago in the playoffs, and had it not been for a freak wrist injury in week one of 2013, we may have seen a star blossom last year. Vereen is healthy and appears ready to be a prominent piece of New England’s offense this year, both as a rusher and receiver.

With Vereen in the lead, the Patriots could decide Ridley’s fumbling ways just aren’t needed, and instead roll with Brandon Bolden, rookie James White and Jonas Gray as the other backs in their offense.

Ridley holds no special teams value and is not a gifted receiver out of the backfield, so if the Pats have no early down or goal-line role for him, parting ways really could be the most logical move.

New England is smart from top to bottom, but especially so with their own personnel. Just like they’re doing with quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Pats will probably field all offers via trade talk before making a final decision. While Ridley really has struggled with fumbles and lacks versatility, he’s been a very effective inside and short-yardage runner. It’d be a mild surprise if the Patriots did actually move on from Ridley – and even more so if they flat-out released him – but it’s clear at this point it can’t be ruled out.

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