In the time leading up to the beginning of training camp, we will be bringing you previews for each New England Patriots positional group. Up next is the running backs.
Running Backs: (10)
This group is one of the strongest positions the Patriots have here in 2014. Not only do they have their top two backs returning healthy, but they have a number of guys backing them up, to provide quality depth in the event of another injury.
Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen lead this bunch, and even though there is talk among the fans that Vereen should be starting in front of Ridley, I feel that there should be no such debate. Yes, Ridley struggles to hold onto the football, but he is a bigger back, is just as talented as Vereen, and more importantly, has shown that he can take the rigors of a 16 game season while being the lead back.
I don’t think Vereen could do the same. I would much rather see Vereen be 100% as a third down back, terrorizing the opposing linebackers in the passing game, than get injured after two weeks of being the lead runner.
Aside from this debate, I am confident that this duo will have a monstrous 2014 season. Both are in contract seasons, which means they will be playing their hearts out trying to prove that they are worth more money. We know that Ridley is talented enough to produce, but the real question will be if he can hold onto the football. If he corrects this problem, then he will have another 1,000 yard season. If not, he probably won’t be in New England in 2015.
Come training camp, Vereen and Ridley will definitely separate themselves from the rest of the running backs, particularly Vereen, who is one of the best mismatches in the entire league. Reports coming out of minicamp said that Tom Brady utilized his backs in the passing game, which bodes well for Vereen, who excels in this area. I am expecting these two to put on quite a show in training camp, and I will be paying special attention to Ridley, and if he has made an attempt at fixing his fumbling issues.
As for the rest of this bunch, I think we will see a fun competition this summer. I loved the pick of James White, but he will have his work cut out for him, battling with Brandon Bolden for the right to the third spot on the depth chart. White was extremely dependable in college, fumbling only twice in 754 career touches in his career at Wisconsin. That is pretty damn good. However Bolden has good experience in this offense, along with some solid athletic skills, as evidenced by his 137 yard performance against the Bills back in 2012.
These two will have a fun battle as we move towards the regular season, and I personally think White will ultimately come out on top. He doesn’t do anything amazingly well, but he is a solid, dependable back, and I think he could shine working behind Ridley and Vereen in this offense.
Overall, when we look back at the 2014-15 season, we will see the running backs as a major positive on this offense. The combination of Ridley and Vereen will provide tremendous results, giving Tom Brady a very balanced offense, making his aerial assault even more dangerous. I can’t wait to see these guys out on the field in September.