This probably goes without saying, but there have been some fans and writers who are saying that the New England Patriots should cut running back Danny Woodhead. This thought is likely due to the breakout of young running back Shane Vereen, who has a similar skill-set and is ahead of Woodhead on the depth chart. However, I highly doubt the Patriots will release Woodhead, because it would be a mistake to do so.
While Vereen is above Woodhead on the depth chart and will likely be a better back, Woodhead is the safer option due to his past success. When he first broke out in 2010, he was one of the best weapons in the NFL and caught opponents by surprise with his terrific pass-catching ability out of the backfield. The Pats lined him up in various ways, and he also showed off the ability to consistently run with the football.
Vereen can be that duel-threat guy, and he is a better pure rusher than Woodhead. However, he isn’t quite as good of a pass-catcher and isn’t a sure thing yet. He ran well in the first preseason game and has impressed in camp, and I think he is a viable No. 2 back for the Patriots. But if things go wrong, the possibility must always be raised, then Woodhead will be there as the sure-thing back.
The New England Patriots can afford to keep four quality backs on the roster in Stevan Ridley, Vereen, Woodhead, and Brandon Bolden. Just because Vereen and Woodhead are similar players, it doesn’t mean that they are the same. Vereen is a more explosive rusher with the football, but Woodhead is a more consistent rusher. In my projections yesterday, I wrote that Vereen would receive at least 100 carries with Woodhead getting at least 50.
Just because Woodhead should be on the team doesn’t mean he should- or will- cut into Vereen’s carries. Vereen is clearly the number two back right now, with Woodhead being even more of a change-of-pace back. His role was decreased last season, and it will be decreased this season as a rusher. It’s hard juggling both schools of thought, but the idea should be that Woodhead stays but in a more limited role. He’s not an insurance policy- he’s a better player than that- for Vereen, but he is his backup and could be utilized in different sets to throw defenses off balance. I mean, it would be kind of fun to line up both Woodhead and Vereen at the same time just to see what the defense decides to do.
I just can’t see the New England Patriots cutting ties with Danny Woodhead, because it would be rash and irrational. Vereen has talent, but he’s no sure thing. We’ve at least seen Woodhead play good football for a couple of seasons. Vereen will almost certainly play well, but it’s always good to have another quality back on the roster in Woodhead. It just wouldn’t make sense to cut a talented player who still has something to offer to this team, and I think the Patriots understand it.
So what do you guys think? Should the Patriots keep Danny Woodhead?
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.