Last April, the Patriots spent two top draft picks on running backs- LSU's Stevan Ridley and California's Shane Vereen. Ridley quickly signed with the team and made the most of his time during the off-season and quickly became a favorite of fans and coaches. Ridley provided a burst that BenJarvus Green-Ellis didn't have and it seemed as if he could take the running game to the next level.
Ridley showed up against the Bills, but broke free against the Raiders, picking up 97 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. However, his numbers quickly dropped as he was stuffed by the New York Jets in the following week. After the Jets game, Ridley's impact had continued to decrease and now, over the past four games, he's picked up 14 yards on 8 carries, or under 2 yards/carry. Keep in mind that he earned those carries in only two games, sandwiched by zero-carry games.
It's no coincidence that Ridley's playing time directly related to his special teams play. Ridley returned 7 kicks against the Jets and the Cowboys in weeks 5 and 6 and was extremely average. After those two mediocre return games, Ridley stopped seeing the field.
On the flip side, Shane Vereen saw plenty of game time on the final drive against the Kansas City Chiefs. It's no coincidence that Vereen played three facets of the special teams game. Keep an eye on which running back contributes on special team and which player gets the carries. As long as Bill Belichick continues to reward the special teamers, it's certain these running backs will try to earn their snaps in the kicking game.