The New England Patriots would have loved to keep Danny Woodhead around as the No. 2 back behind Stevan Ridley, but unfortunately things did not shake out that way. The San Diego Chargers were desperate for a back with the all-around game that Woodhead possesses, and they decided to pay more than anyone else in order to sign Woodhead to back up Ryan Mathews. The Patriots and New York Jets were in a bidding war prior to Woodhead signing a large deal with the Chargers, but neither AFC East rival was able to sign him (I would have been enraged if the Jets plucked Woodhead).
Now that Woodhead is gone, the task of replacing him falls to Shane Vereen, who is the ideal candidate to replace Woodhead. Although he is not as consistent of a rusher as Woodhead is, Vereen is more explosive and has plenty of upside. Both are just as good pass-catchers as each other, but the big difference is that Woodhead was a significantly better pass blocker- let’s hope Vereen can improve in that facet of his game. Vereen’s task is a tall one, but he is poised for a breakout year in his third season. However, Vereen will need to remain healthy and take the next step in his game. I’m confident he will do so, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll see Vereen playing a big role in the Patriots offense next season. I mean, it’s not often that you find a back with the upside, pass-catching ability, and explosiveness that Vereen has. He’ll never be more than a No. 2 back, but he has a chance to be a truly game-changing No. 2 for the Patriots a la Woodhead if all goes well.
Vereen has been speaking frequently to the media in recent days, and he talked about the tall order of trying to replace Danny Woodhead. Here is what he said, via WEEI, “It’s going to be hard to replace a guy like Woody. He had a lot of experience. He had a lot of knowledge. He’s a smart player. His role was pretty key to the team. I learned a lot from him. You can’t really replace him. All you can do is move on and hope to get better from there.”
“You can’t really replace him.” That quote stands out to me, and it’s great to hear that Vereen learned plenty from Woodhead. The first step in replacing Woodhead is learning from him, and the experience and intelligence that Vereen spoke highly of. We tend to forget that Woodhead is an incredibly smart player, and Vereen also fits the same mold as a guy who played for the California Golden Bears in college. Vereen has a tough task ahead of him, but it is a job that he has a good chance of filling out given his skill-set and outlook.
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