The New England Patriots drafted two running backs in the 2011 NFL Draft: Cal’s Shane Vereen 56th overall and LSU’s Stevan Ridley 73rd overall. The two back coupled with two hard-nosed offensive linemen (Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon), one has to wonder if the Patriots are going to shift focus on the offense to incorporate more of the running game. The Pats now have Vereen, Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (restricted free agent but was tendered) and Danny Woodhead to carry the rock. Green-Ellis was already a 1,000-yard rusher and Woodhead was a little spark plug playmaker. The addition of Vereen and Ridley should only improve each back’s performance per carry, as the rotation should keep each fresh.
The additional backs should also take some of the pressure off of Tom Brady. What is evident to all of the NFL, or at least it should be, is the fact that if Brady struggles, the Patriot offense shuts down. Check the Pats/Jets playoff game for the most recent evidence. There hasn’t been a reliable fall-back plan since Corey Dillon was a Patriot. Perhaps now with the additional backs, a return to pounding the ball will diversify the offense enough to get it over the top and overcome any struggles against a topnotch defense hell bent on stopping Brady.
Below are some highlight reels of the two new Patriot backs, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.