Overreacting to the preseason is unwise. The regular season simply is not the same game. However, there is room to hope that positive play of players might indicate some potential to carry over their preseason performances to the regular season. Hassan Ridgeway is just such a case.
Ridgeway had 2 sacks, 3 hurries, and 3 tackles for a loss in the preseason week one matchup against the Seahawks. He played 24 snaps in the game, and the performance was enough to earn him a spot on PFF’s preseason week one team of the week.
Ridgeway has been largely a disappointment since being drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. However, one of the biggest concerns for him coming out in the draft was related to his conditioning. He frequently struggled to stay in game shape. Many of the Colts players got linked up with the training staff in the offseason and showed up more cut and in better shape than they had previously been. Whether Ridgeway was affected that way, we cannot be sure, but he certainly looked explosive in this game.
Regardless, the word on Ridgeway has always been that he is best suited to be used in a heavy rotation due to his tendency to gas when not in top shape. That’s perfect, because that is precisely how the Colts imagine using their defensive linemen anyway.
Take a look at his first sack:
He quickly sheds his blocker, loops around behind Chris McCain who is tying up the left tackle, and runs down the quarterback. It looks really easy, and while some credit goes to poor blocking that likely doesn’t happen against the starters, his speed to get around the outside at his size is impressive. This quarterback did not feel great after this game.
This play very nearly results in a sack as well. Anthony Johnson has the right tackle backing up to push him out of the play. Ridgeway sheds the guard with a nice swim move and has the quarterback in his grasp but can’t quite finish the play. Even though they don’t get the sack, the quarterback takes a hit and the pass goes for a loss. Do this very often to a quarterback and they start playing sloppy.
This is an example of how disruptive it is having a man that large getting immediate penetration into the backfield. Ridgeway easily shoots through the A gap and despite getting held by the guard, absolutely smothers the running back for a loss. Getting interior pressure like that is demoralizing for a running back because he’s blowing up the play before anything has time to develop.
In this last one Ridgeway’s get-off is just too fast for the left guard. He gets almost untouched to the quarterback and tries to bury him in CenturyLink Field when he gets hands on him. If I’m being honest, I assumed the quarterback must have insulted Ridgeway’s mother just before this play, and I was shocked that the referees didn’t throw a flag. I think they made the right call, but if that was Tom Brady you can just about count on flags being thrown from every direction. Still, that kind of nastiness has been missing from this team, and it is great to see.
Ultimately, this was against backups for a team without a great offensive line. Until we see him do it consistently, there is no way to know if he was just feeling himself that night, if the guards behind Seattle’s starters are really that bad, or if this is the new normal.
One thing that is absolutely important to keep in mind is that you want to see players dominate inferior competition. He might not be able to put top level starting guards in clown suits like he did these backups, but if he can make them look like they aren’t sure what sport they’re playing, he can certainly provide a challenge for starting caliber players. Now we just need to see him do it consistently.