FOXBORO — With Stevan Ridley reportedly lost for the year with a torn ACL and MCL, the Patriots have their work cut out for them to make up for his loss.

Of the Patriots’€™ 660 yards rushing this season, Ridley has accounted for 52 percent of them — 340 yards.

There is no question Shane Vereen will be a player who will likely step up with the loss of Ridley, but his style is more catching passes out of the backfield and only run on draw plays — not be a No. 1 back. Vereen hasn’€™t had a game this season with more than nine carries, but does have 18 catches for 114 yards.

New England will likely use all of their backs and ride the hot hand each week to make up for the loss of the fourth-year running back. Here is a look at the three other players and how they now view their roles:

Brandon Bolden

Bolden has the most experience of the three as he has 126 career rushing attempts for 570 yards with five touchdowns, now in his third season in the league. While Bolden said he hasn’€™t been notified of a No. 1 back role, he feels he could be one if given the opportunity.

“€œAnybody in the league thinks that, but no, as of now I am here to do whatever the team asks me to do,”€ said Bolden.

Bolden has played a significant role on special teams this season — securing his spot on the game roster each week — but now, because of his experience, he may soon be playing a significant role in the running game rather than on special teams.

James White

White, a rookie, has only been active for one game so far this season (Kansas City) so that will likely change beginning Thursday night. He is a smaller back — 5-foot-10, 205 pounds — so likely not an every down back, but a good complimentary one.

“I’€™m just going to do whatever the coaches tell me,” White said. “Every game plan is different so I am going to just go out here and work hard in practice.”

Although he hasn’€™t seen much game action, the Wisconsin product has used practices to show the coaches what he can bring. He also was fairly impressive in his time during the preseason.

“Just work hard during practice. You may not get opportunities on Sunday’€™s, but if you show you can do it during practice — the easier to go out there and perform on Sunday,” White said.

Jonas Gray

Although Gray is still a member of the practice squad, it is very likely he gets promoted before the game to be the fourth active running back. Bill Belichick noted practice squad players generally get promoted the day prior to the game.

“No real indication,”€ Gray said. ‘€œI am just preparing the same way I have been the entire time. Like I said, the staff does a good job of making sure preparing the same time every week and the guys that are not playing getting extra film study. For me t’€™s the same mindset, just waiting for my number to get called.”

Gray, a rookie out of Notre Dame, who ran quite well in the preseason says he and Ridley have some of the same characteristics.

“I think we have a similar style,” he said. “We both have a power style to us. He runs with a reckless abandon, I know I am going to be just like that.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Tom Brady is expected to play in the 200th regular-season game of his career Thursday against the Jets.</p>
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Shockingly, Tom Brady is a good quarterback when he isn't getting swallowed by a pass rush. (Getty Images)I wasn't planning on writing about Tom Brady again this week.



CHRIS VILLANI

BIO | ARCHIVE


We check in with Peter King from MMQB/SI and get his take on Patriots-Jets in a short turnaround week, with the game coming up on Thursday night.

FOXBORO — There are many challenges playing on Thursday Night Football having only three days to prepare for the upcoming opponent.

But, the Patriots and Jets don’t have that issue this week as the two teams are plenty familiar with one another — having encountered eachother many times over the last few seasons.

“Definitely familiar with them. We play them twice a year,” Rob Gronkowski said. “They haven’€™t really switched it up much — the same coach is there — that is a positive about it, facing a familiar team. You have to keep on studying because they have something new every week.”

Playing in the Thursday game following a Sunday game creates a time-crunch and cramming a week long game plan into a few days, on top of that trying to get your body physically ready in a short period of time. Although it’s difficult, both teams have to go through it.

“Both teams have to deal with it,” Gronkowski said. “You have to get your treatment, hot and cold tubs, the weight room — get a good lift in –€“ and concentrate on the week and the Jets. It’€™s a quick turnaround, just get prepared and it’€™s fair both sides.”

As for the game — it won’t take much for the players to get fired up being between two division rivals.

“It’€™s the Jets. You know how the games are — it’€™s always a competitive games when we play the Jets,” said Gronkowski. “They are one of our rivals so it should be a good game.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — After missing the first six games of the season — four because of suspension and then the last two because of an ankle injury — cornerback Brandon Browner is talking like a player who will be back Thursday night against the Jets.

“I’€™m ready to go. I’€™m getting ready to play Thursday,” Browner said.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — After missing the last two games because of a knee injury, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower stood at his locker already knowing the question would be coming.

Will he be ready to play Thursday night against the Jets?

“The next question is do I think am I going play Thursday? That is day-to-day,” Hightower said. “I am holding up, doing everything they’€™ve asked me to do, so hopefully I will be out there.”

Hightower has missed the last two games after having a strong start to the season — recording 20 tackles in the four games he’s played — as well as coming along in terms of pass coverage, something that was a bit suspect in past years.

In his third season, Hightower only missed two games in his career prior to this year, so standing on the sidelines has been tough — but he’s done what he can to help the defense.

“It definitely sucks,” he said “Definitely these last couple games coming up are definitely games we want to have and seeing those guys out there having fun and playing the way we have been playing and not being able to have a part of — the most I can do is help give those guys checks and alerts from the sideline and doing my part. Hopefully that was the last game of the season I’€™ll have to do that.’€

With fellow inside linebacker Jerod Mayo going down with a season-ending leg injury, the Patriots need Hightower back even more now. While no one person can replace Mayo — a captain — it will take a number players on the defensive side of the ball, including Hightower, who should become more of a leader for the group.

The unit went through the same thing last year when Mayo also went down for the season in Week 6 with a torn pectoral muscle. Going through the same thing last year should help them moving forward this season.

“It’€™s going to help a lot,” Hightower said. “I definitely feel like it helped me, but it helped [Jamie Collins] out as well. We have some familiarity with that, but it’€™s going to be a lot easier this year. The chemistry that me and Jamie have built since then — we help each other. The biggest thing about this defense this year is a lot of people communicate so that will prevent those big plays from happening, mis-alignments and mis-keys.”

When it came to communication — Mayo was the leader wearing the “green-dot” helmet — being able to communicate with the coaches on the sideline and relaying the information to the rest of the defense. Hightower or Collins will take over that role, which is something they say won’t change much because they both have done it in the past.

“€œI don’€™t think that will change too much,” said Hightower. “Just move and communication. We’€™ve done that before — in OTAs different guys have had the green dot — “I don’€™t think it will change too much.”

Regardless of who takes over leading the communication, as a group it is going to take everyone to make up for what is lost with Mayo’s absence.

“Next man up is kind of the motto we had last year,” Hightower said. “It’€™s going to be a big void to fill — definitely not one man can fill those shoes like we saw last year. We just have to get over the hump.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Rex Ryan has been walking off the field a loser in five straight games. (Getty Images)

Rex Ryan has been walking off the field a loser in five straight games. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The season-opening win over the Raiders must seem like a lifetime ago to Rex Ryan. The Jets beat Oakland, 19-14, and were tied with Buffalo and Miami atop the AFC East, a game ahead of the 0-1 Patriots.

Since then, the bottom has once again fallen out on Rex Ryan. The quarterback situation is a disaster, with neither Geno Smith nor Michael Vick leading any type of consistent offense. The already porous secondary suffered another blow Monday with the loss of Dee Milliner to injury.

Oh right, they’ve lost five straight and stand 1-5 in the division.

And now, in a short week, they travel to Foxboro to take on a Patriots team that has rediscovered its chemistry and execution on the field. Despite losing Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley for the season, and facing the possibility of playing without Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork, the Patriots are prohibitive favorites this Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

How badly do Ryan and the Jets need to win a football game?

“About as bad is it gets, like you’€™re a 1-5 team,” Ryan answered Tuesday. “We’€™re desperate, to say the least.

Could a win over rival Bill Belichick and the Patriots Thursday night in the national spotlight salvage his season and, in turn, his job?

“No, I don’€™t look at that,” Ryan said. “It’€™s never been about me. You talk about job security late in the year, I’€™ve never flinched one time about it. All I do is the best job I can, and I’€™m confident in my abilities, and I’€™m confident in the guys that I coach with, the people that are here. So again, I don’€™t think twice about it.

“I just know we are going to do everything in our power to get a win. Obviously, it’€™s a lot easier said than done, especially traveling up to New England. We know we’€™re going to get their best shot, and they know that we’€™re going to give them our best shot.”

As desperate as things might be for Ryan, he still has his charm and sense of humor. Ryan was asked about the struggles of the Patriots offensive line and if he’s given any consideration of blitzing on every down.

“Oh yeah, that definitely,” Ryan began before catching himself. “You sound like my mom now. Everybody thought, ‘€˜Oh my gosh, Buddy Ryan, what kind of blitzer he’€™d be,’€™ but my mom would be worse. The league is probably happy that she wasn’€™t a coordinator. Yeah, I don’€™t know if that’€™s the most sound thing.”

Told that his mom would want him taking his vitamins and getting good nights of sleep, Ryan turned into competitor.

“Hey, I’€™m showing up, I can promise you that,” Ryan said.

Here are some other takeaways from Ryan on Tuesday:

Q: When you drafted Jace Amaro, did you hope he could develop into something like the Patriots have with Rob Gronkowski?

RR: Oh, that would be nice. Do I think that’€™s the case? No. You’€™re talking about a guy that’€™s scored, what, 20-some touchdowns [46 career regular-season touchdown receptions]? Yeah, we would love that. We’€™d love half of that. But no, when we took him, we never thought he would be a Gronkowski. There is only one of those in this league. But we know he’€™ll be a good football player.

Q: How much of your offensive struggles do you attribute to the lack of stability at the quarterback position?

RR: It’€™s not just one man. We seem like we’€™ve been breaking down at certain spots throughout the year. We’€™ll need a big stop, and instead the team will drive it on us for a touchdown. We’€™ll turn the ball over. There’€™s something that happens, but it’€™s certainly not just on one man.

Q: Does Zach Sudfeld have any relevance for you guys now?

RR: Yeah, absolutely. Zach is doing a good job for us. We think he’€™s a guy that can develop into a good football player, and obviously, as you guys know, he was quite a red zone threat when he was there in the preseason when he was playing. I think he just keeps improving, he’€™s a hard worker, and I think the young man’€™s got a bright future.

Q: What’€™s been the difference between the game tapes of the Patriots for when they’€™ve struggled versus when they’€™ve had success?

RR: I think sometimes you need to give credit to the opponent that you’€™re playing. They see a lot of different things, and I think sometimes it’€™s not a focus of anybody. But they’€™ve played some good teams and for whatever reason, maybe they’€™ve struggled a little bit. This is a team that is still atop our division, like they always are it seems like, and obviously has a great deal of talent. They’€™ve got a great coach in [Bill] Belichick, and obviously they’€™ve got the Hall of Fame quarterback, so that makes it tough.

Q: How have you seen the Patriots offensive line evolve over the course of the season?

RR: Well, they’€™ve been using a lot of different guys, combinations in there and things like that. It seems like they’€™re settling in on more of the veteran group. But again, they have some talent there as well.

Q: How does losing Dee Milliner affect your secondary, which has struggled already this season?

RR: This is our sixth Pro Bowl quarterback that we’€™ve faced in a row, so it’€™s certainly been a challenge. But again, we’€™re certainly not playing defense to our standards. I think we’€™re sixth in the league in defense, so that definitely isn’€™t to our standards. But we’€™ll see what happens when it’€™s all said and done.

Q: Do you think in some way a short week can help your squad forget about the last game and catch Bill Belichick on a short week?

RR: No, I don’€™t think so. I think his record on a short week is probably ‘€¦ I know it’€™s a lot better than mine. It’€™s not an advantage on a short week, a long week or anything else. We’€™re just going to show up, and the best team will win.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Brandon Browner

Brandon Browner

FOXBORO — After missing the first six games of the season — four because of suspension and then the last two because of an ankle injury — cornerback Brandon Browner is talking like a player who will be back Thursday night against the Jets.

“I’€™m ready to go. I’€™m getting ready to play Thursday,” Browner said.

Browner’s ankle injury popped up in Week 5 — the first week he was eligible to return — and he’s been listed as questionable each of the last two games. The former Seattle cornerback said his ankle is “feeling better and good to go.” He said it’s been tough watching from afar each of the last six weeks.

“I’€™m itching, he said. “It’€™s like anyone else who has been held out or hurt, I’€™m itching to get out there. I’€™m taking it a day at a time trying to get better as best I can.”

With the new league rules and being suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, Bronwer was able to be around the team while he was suspended, but just wasn’t able to practice. Asked if he was able to stay in game shape, he said he cannot answer until he plays in a game.

“That’€™s hard for me to answer because I haven’€™t played yet,” said Browner. “I’€™ll have a better answer for you after the game.”

Having not played in a game that has meant something since the Super Bowl, one could try and do too much too fast, but Browner doesn’t feel that will be an issue because of the current Patriots secondary.

“You’€™re not going to try and do too much, just play the defense,” he said. “Let the chips fall where they may and I think we have a good enough team that if we just play the defense things will play as we want them to.”

If he does play Thursday, it would come against the Jets — a divisional opponent — something Browner is looking forward to.

“I’€™m excited to get back out there. I’€™m fortunate to be able to play against a divisional opponent so I’€™m looking forward to competing against those guys,” said Browner.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The Patriots did not have any changes to their practice report from Monday to Tuesday, as offensive linemen Dan Connolly (concussion), Cameron Fleming (finger) and Bryan Stork (concussion) were all sidelined, as was defensive back Nate Ebner (finger).