The New England Patriots have a crucial chess piece on offense in Shane Vereen, and the explosive running back figures to have a significant role catching passes out of the backfield and out wide next season. Vereen is such a versatile weapon, and he had a strong preseason with the high point being a big game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although Vereen could still improve as a rusher and pass protector, he does a decent job getting yardage on the ground and should continue to improve in that regard as he heads into his third season in the league. I’m not one of those people who sees a true breakout year out of Vereen, but I do think he’ll have an important role on this offense and will be a trusty option in the passing game for Tom Brady.
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was on conference call yesterday, and he was asked a question about Vereen’s pass-catching ability, “Yeah, I think certainly when you have a back that has opportunities to makes plays down the field and he shows that he can do that, that doesn’t happen often. It doesn’t happen often with Shane, or it hasn’t happened often with Shane either, but he’s made some really nice plays in the past with the opportunities that we’ve had to do that. Any back that gives you an opportunity to move him out of the backfield and still have some contribution from him is a plus in the passing game. I think Shane has done everything we have asked him to do in any role, whether that be blitz pickup, running the ball, catching it out of the backfield or being split outside and doing things out there too. We don’t just do that with Shane. There have been other backs in our past that have made some plays out there, but all of them end up playing out there at one time or another and doing some different things. It’s just a matter of how much the ball actually gets pushed out there. Hopefully if that comes up, any of them will be able to take advantage of the opportunity, and that would include Shane.”
Based on McDaniels’s response, the Patriots are aware of Vereen’s terrific pass-catching ability (that’s pretty obvious), but it also sounds like Vereen is going to be used more as a “wrinkle” than a regular on offense. It’s likely that the Patriots are just not trying to tip their hand by staying lukewarm on Vereen, but I’ve also felt that Vereen being split out wide would only be a small part of the picture.
Now here’s what Bill Belichick said about Shane Vereen, “Shane has had a good spring and a good camp. He’s been relatively healthy, he’s gotten a lot of snaps out there on all three downs, all four downs really – the kicking game and third down and first and second down offensively as well. I think he’s continued to grow and develop as a player, both in an understanding and working on it his run reads, his route running technique, blitz pickup, various things in the kicking game. He’s continued to improve and I think he’s had a good camp here, good preseason. I think he’s ready to go in the season. [We'll] see how it all turns out, but I think his preparation has been good.”