Aug 9, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead (39) on the side line during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

New England Patriots shouldn’t cut Danny Woodhead

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.

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Tags: Brandon Bolden Danny Woodhead New England Patriots Shane Vereen Stevan Ridley

  • sodbuster

    keep woody. Ridley is possibly hurt. Last year Woodhead was open on many pass plays and Brady didnt throw him the ball. He reminds me of a smaller Welker, and isnt always being used to his full potential. Thanks for the opportunity.

    • Joe Soriano

      I like that, a smaller Welker. That’s a great way to put it, because he does so many different unique things that add different wrinkles to the Patriots offense. I really hope Stevan Ridley hasn’t suffered a significant injury, and he did walk back to the locker room on his own power after staying through practice. I don’t think it’s serious, and he should play in the regular season. But if that’s any indication, the health of running backs is far from a guarantee. I honestly think that Woodhead was under-utilized last season, so we can both agree on that. We’ll see what the future has in store for him, but I know and hope that it’s with the Patriots for at least the next few years.

      Thanks for the comment, I always enjoy hearing from others.

  • PatsFromAbove

    I highly doubt Woody would be cut. If there are two things the Pats love, it’s utility players and a player with a team-first mindset. Woodhead is both of these. On the offense you can use him to replace any RB or WR, he brings great value on special teams, and even if his value as a RB decreases, he could be used on D which he would happily take on. We’re talking about a team that used Edelman on D last year here, and personnaly I think Woody has more value than him.

    • Joe Soriano

      I agree, the Patriots are the best decision-making team in the league, and, as such, they won’t cut a valuable player like Woodhead. He’s scheme-versatile, he’s a good locker-room guy, and he’s the team’s kick-off returner at this point. He isn’t the best returner out there, but he’s the best the Pats have. And yes, I agree wholeheartedly that he brings more to the table than Julian Edelman. Question, how would you use Woodhead on defense? As a cornerback, I presume.

      Thank you for your comment. I would be shocked to see Woodhead to go, and I am surprised at the negative comments directed towards him by other writers and fans in comment sections and, mainly, on Twitter.

      • PatsFromAbove

        Joe, I have read several articles from you on Woody and my feel is that even though your articles may be negative, you actually like him a lot. Because you like him, you are more aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and in your articles you have to write objectively. Let me know if I am wrong.
        What I feel like a lot of people are not considering is that last year Faulk was still in the equasion. Woody is regarded as Faulk II so when Faulk the original was still there he took up a lot of his carries. Also I think the pats want to use Woody sparingly until he is seriously needed. I don’t think that situation came up a lot last year, and that might be why we saw more of Woody than usual in the SB. Finally, we can all agree that we can expect more screens from the Pats next year. Personally, I think Woody is well fit for the screen play, and may see increased utilization.
        As to where Woody might be used in D, I originally thought CB as well, but he might be a little too short to be effective at disrupting passes. So, call me crazy, and I know a lot of people will, I think he will be better suited as a safety or OLB. Seeing him play on special teams, I think he makes decent tackles against the run. Because of his size and speed he might be able to get under and around the O-Line and reach the QB. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I think it might be an aspect that would be interesting to experiment.

        • Joe Soriano

          What you said in the first paragraph is completely fair, I am in agreement. Outside linebacker is a stretch, but I could feasibly see him playing safety. I don’t think he would make a good safety, but, as you said, a little experimenting wouldn’t hurt anyone.

          Yeah, I think while the Pats are going to limit Woodhead’s carries due to Vereen’s emergence, his targets as a receiver are going to at least remain the same. Faulk received about 15-20 carries last year, so Woodhead would have received around 90 carries without Faulk taking up some, so that’s a valid point to bring up. As for more screens, I am in agreement with that with the emergence of Vereen as well. I think the Pats will throw some screens to help open up things downfield for Lloyd. It’s an interesting dynamic to think about, especially in 2 RB shotgun sets. Imagine both Vereen and Woodhead both going out for passes out of the backfield; that’s a mismatch for most defenses with regards to their OLBs coverage.