New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen has been tabbed by many people as a potential breakout star in 2013, whether it be for fantasy or actual football purposes. Vereen had a big night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, and he really impressed with four carries for 29 yards and four receptions for 46 yards on six targets. His only blemish was a drop, but that’s definitely forgiven with those kinds of numbers. I wonder how many carries Vereen is going to get, but we can’t forget that he’s also a pretty good rusher with all the talk focusing on his potential impact as a receiver in the Patriots offense.
New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) runs after a reception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
But that’s why we are so hyped up about Vereen, because he is going to be a valuable chess piece for the Patriots. He has the ability to shift and line up in the slot and outside, and he is an even better receiver and more explosive than Danny Woodhead was. The jury is still out on how he compares with Woodhead as a rusher (or pass protector), but there is little doubt in my mind that he is an excellent pass-catcher and somebody who can create a lot of mis-matches.
Peter King wrote down an observation from each team when he visited them in training camp, and he brought them all together in today’s MMQB. Like others, King believes that Vereen can help partially do some of what Aaron Hernandez did last year, though I think that Zach Sudfeld will be that guy (he’s fast, an excellent pass-catcher, and he mostly played in the slot at Nevada). But Vereen should definitely be used in that role at times, and King praised Vereen for his hands (that’s noteworthy to me) and trademark elusiveness.
Jermaine Cunningham is somebody who just doesn’t seem to fit the 4-3 scheme, and I really think he needs a change of scenery with a team that runs a 3-4. Cunningham hasn’t been good since his rookie year at OLB, and I just don’t think he’s an effective pass rusher in this league outside of that role. I actually liked his run defense last year (I bet it was because he “bulked up”), but his pass rushing was poor. I hate how the Patriots are using edge rushers as interior sub-package rushers, and it definitely won’t work if they try to use Marcus Benard in that capacity next season.
There is some uncertainty at DE, but I would rather try to see if guys like Jake Bequette can pan out, because they are younger and have more upside. Cunningham just doesn’t seem to have a role on this team anymore, and he hasn’t impressed me this August. The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin believes that Jermaine Cunningham “looks like a goner”, and I agree with him. Volin brought up the point that the other DEs on the roster are cheaper, and that has to be a big part of the Patriots decision. All in all, I expect Cunningham to be cut, and the only things that could save him are huge flops from Bequette and Justin Francis or a huge final two preseason games.