Yesterday on a podcast, Greg Cosell of NFL Films shared some words of wisdom on the New England Patriots top two running backs; Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. While he heaped praise on one back, Cosell was highly critical of the other.
It’s kind of funny to hear people who don’t know much about the Patriots talk about how Vereen and Ridley are going to split duties as the primary ball-carrier for the Pats because nothing could be further from the truth. Ridley is clearly the No. 1 back going forward for the Pats, because he is easily the best running back in between the tackles. In fact he’s the best pure rusher overall due to his mix of strength and explosiveness. He isn’t a strong back, but he is stronger than Vereen who is mainly valued for his explosiveness around the edge and pass-catching ability.
Although Danny Woodhead is the only good pass protector among the Patriots running backs, Ridley more than makes up for his lack of blitz pick-up prowess by, well, getting solid chunks of yardage consistently. He can also break off a big gain, and we’ve already seen his potential thus far in the preseason.
“I think Ridley has the physical attributes to be a volume sustainer,” said Greg Cosell. “He’s a physical guy, excellent short area burst, speed through the hole, even speed to the perimeter on outside zone.”
That quote from Cosell is right on, and Ridley showed a lot of potential last season as well by rushing for 443 yards on 88 carries. That’s a total of 5.0 yards per carry, so the thought of Ridley breaking out this season isn’t based solely on preseason performance or potential; he had a high amount of success last season in limited carries. I predict 4.5 yards per carry out of Ridley next season, which would equate to 900 yards on 200 carries.
As for Vereen, Cosell said this, “I will be surprised if Vereen makes it [as a major contributor].”
Yeah, he’s not high on him. I like Vereen and Woodhead as the two change of pace backs behind Ridley, with both being good pass-catchers and Vereen providing value as a rusher, especially on outside runs. Both will definitely get their share of third-down snaps, but the main rushing is going to be in Ridley’s hands. He has the past production, the strong offseason, and the talent on his side. He’s going to have a strong second-year in the NFL, and I agree with Cosell to a certain extent. I think he’s too low on Vereen, but I agree that Ridley is clearly the No. 1 guy going forward. If Vereen gets 100 carries, he’ll likely get 405 yards. His main value is as a receiver and change of pace back who can get a big gain at times.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.