On Sunday the New England Patriots will travel south to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars as they attempt to secure the third seed in the AFC. As one of the worst teams in the league this year, the Jaguars are not expected to put up much of a fight. This year the Patriots have suffered many key injuries and must stay healthy heading into the postseason. This will create a battle for backup running back between Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen.
This past offseason the Patriots lost starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency creating a battle for the starting spot between 2011 draft picks Stevan Ridley and Vereen. While Vereen struggled to stay healthy, Ridley shined reaching 100 yards four times and reaching the 1,000 yard plateau during week 12 in Miami. The Patriots’ success quickly became synonymous with Ridley’s success cementing him as the starter for the foreseeable future.
While Vereen continued to recover from injury, the Patriots got solid production from undrafted free agent Bolden. After surprising the team in training camp, Bolden continued to do so in the regular season which peaked when he carried 16 times for 137 yards in week four against the Buffalo Bills. But as Vereen got healthy, Bolden was suspended for four games for using performance enhancing drugs.
Now Vereen is completely healthy and Bolden is back from his suspension. Meanwhile Ridley has only carried the ball 20 times on five occasions and over 25 times once. That means his backup will be a key part of the Patriots offense in the playoffs and that’s the spot open. The Patriots should handle the Jaguars with relative ease Sunday giving Bill Belichick an opportunity to rest his starters and give the backups ample playing time. That’s where the battle will begin.
With Ridley having completely secured his position as the team’s primary back, two players with two completely different paths will compete for his backup. Vereen expected to compete for the starting position before injury derailed him. Bolden was playing solid averaging 5.4 yards a carry until a suspension derailed his quest to be the backup. On Sunday both running backs will have an opportunity to prove themselves when they both receive plenty of playing time in Jacksonville.