Shane Vereen was touted coming into the season as an explosive No. 2 back to Stevan Ridley, but the New England Patriots did not receive that explosiveness on the field until Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. With Brandon Bolden out after re-injuring his knee the previous week against the Seattle Seahawks, it was time for Vereen to shine.
Showing his explosive ability, Vereen averaged 6.1 yards per carry on eight rushes to finish with 49 yards. He was clearly the most productive rusher in that game for the Pats, and it looks like he is finally healthy after missing the first three weeks of the season with a foot injury that he sustained in the third week of the preseason. After returning, Vereen played in just an extremely limited role with the team, and it was apparent that the injury was still slowing him down.
A quote from Bill Belichick leads us into the line of thinking that Vereen is finally healthy. He told CSNNE, “More of it is, Shane being healthy and Shane being ready to go, than waiting for something to happen to somebody else. It’s more a case of him really being able to go out there and being the player that he is.”
Since most of Vereen’s game is based off of his explosive ability, it is fair to say that he was not able to be “the player that he is” due to the foot injury. It just sapped out his ability to get to the outside and be a good backup RB for this team.
“I think he has a good understanding of the game, the running game, the passing game, pass protection, space plays. Where to be, how to get open and find space, that kind of thing. He’s an elusive guy, he’s got good balance. He’s got good playing strength for his size. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s got good playing strength.”
He talked more about the value Vereen brings to the table as a player, and I find it noteworthy that he mentioned pass protection. That means Vereen is in serious consideration for the third-down role going forwards, in addition to some more carries on first and second down. The Patriots have so much depth at running back with Bolden, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Vereen. In fact, this might be the deepest group of backs that the NFL has to offer. The toughest part is trying to get them all carries, but that’s definitely a good problem to have.
I can’t wait to see Vereen get more carries, and I agree with Belichick that the main reason why he wasn’t productive is that he just wasn’t healthy and could not do the things that he does best for this team. It will be interesting to see how often he is utilized in the passing attack, as he has only caught two passes this season.
Belichick also stated that he hopes that the second-year back can receive “more opportunities”. We can already tell that he’s most likely in line for a larger role, and it’s well-deserved.
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