The New England Patriots will have to come up with a new plan at running back. Their lead back, Stevan Ridley, reportedly suffered tears of the ACL and MCL ligaments in his knee and will miss the remainder of the 2014 NFL season.

Ridley exited New England’s week six contest via a low tackle and was unable to return to the game. Early reports suggested the Patriots feared a season-ending ligament tear in the knee, and head coach Bil Belichick suggested the injury was “serious” following the game. Mike Reiss confirmed via Twitter on Monday afternoon that Ridley’s season was in fact over.

What’s Next For Ridley

Still just 25 and a very underrated power back, Ridley probably still has a future as a lead rusher somewhere beyond this season. Continuing to be that reliable guy won’t be easy, though, since he’ll be entering 2015 as a free agent with a shredded knee. It also doesn’t help that Ridley has had bouts with fumbling and has never brought much versatility to the table. Considering his constant up and down status with the Patriots, it’s unlikely the team brings him back, unless he signs on for cheap and they don’t feel comfortable with their replacement options. Odds are, however, the Pats like the guys they have, while they could even find another runner in next year’s draft.

That puts a less than 100% on the open market in 2015, where numerous running back hungry teams like the Jaguars, Colts and others could express interest.

Moving on

Regardless of whether or not Ridley is due back with the Pats eventually, he’s done for this year and New England has to move on. For now, that means passing down specialist Shane Vereen gets thrust into the starting slot, while Brandon Bolden and rookie running back James White should also factor into some type of rotation.

Losing Ridley is a big hit, as the Patriots had largely leaned on their rushing attack on offense this year. In fact, Ridley had produced two 100+ yard running efforts and had gone over 19 carries in three different games. If Vereen struggles to stay healthy like he has in the past and Bolden and White can’t make up for the loss of Ridley’s power inside, the Patriots could have issues with balanced on offense.

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