The New England Patriots decided to place Shane Vereen on the injured reserve with the designation to return yesterday, and thus Vereen will return to the Patriots in Week 11. I don’t anticipate him missing any more time beyond that, and the reason why he is eligible to return in Week 11 instead of Week 10 is simply because the Patriots have a bye week in Week 10.
Shane Vereen played through a small broken bone in his left wrist on Sunday, and the incredibly impressive thing is the fact that he was able to get 159 yards of total offense on just 21 touches. As expected, Vereen did an impeccable job in the passing game with seven receptions for 58 yards, but he really made his mark on the ground by rushing for 101 yards on 14 carries after replacing Stevan Ridley as the main back.
The impact of losing Vereen is definitely big, but it’s not back-breaking. The Patriots have depth at running back, and that saves them right now. Stevan Ridley is still the feature back and I honestly don’t have significant worries about him going forward. Ridley’s fumbles have always been there, and you can’t dramatically change your opinion on Ridley after one game. He’s still a very talented back, and he’s the most-fit feature back on this roster. Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount are quality backups, but where the Patriots will feel the biggest burn is in the passing game.
While Vereen proved that he is a talented rusher after that big game against the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots have enough talented rushers to make up for his loss. But the Patriots don’t have an RB who is as versatile, explosive, or as good of a receiver as Shane Vereen, and that’s where the Patriots will feel the pain the most. Leon Washington looks like the only back on this roster who can effectively catch the ball and while he has speed to burn, Vereen is definitely the better player.
The Patriots decision to place Vereen on the I.R. with a designation for return shows that Vereen’s wrist injury is more serious than previously thought, and the Patriots have lost a safety valve for Tom Brady and a valuable all-purpose back. Things will get better for this team once the other players get healthy, but Vereen’s injury is certainly a big one and just compounds the bad news. Until he gets back, the Patriots will have to find ways to spread the field more with the receivers, and I think we could see more four-wide sets.