Another New England Patriots player set to return on Monday night is running back Shane Vereen. It’s been awhile since he has played, so Vereen should get a light workload to start.
By the time Monday night rolls around, it will have been 10 weeks since Vereen has played. He suffered a fractured wrist in Week One against the Buffalo Bills, and was subsequently placed on short-term injured reserve. That means that Bill Belichick thought that Vereen could return at some point during the season.
Before that injury, Vereen was likely starting what would have been a breakout season for him. He had 14 rushes for 101 yards to go along with seven receptions for 58 yards in just one game. It was clear at that point that Josh McDaniels viewed Vereen as the bell-cow running back.
Things have changed since Vereen went down. Stevan Ridley has re-assumed his role of lead dog in the backfield, averaging at least 4.4 yards per carry in his each of his last seven games. It appears that Ridley has regained McDaniels’ trust, at least as the best pure runner in the stable.
This is where Vereen’s situation becomes muddled. McDaniels simply cannot throw Vereen into the fire like he did against Buffalo. Ridley is in the zone as a runner right now. So McDaniels must feed him. Vereen, however, offers an upgrade in the passing game. He can catch the ball better than any running back on the Patriots roster.
So here’s the plan for Monday: feed Vereen in the passing game. Ridley can be the running specialist while Vereen can be the pass-catching specialist. That’s the way that those two were supposed to be used anyway. As of now, that’s exactly how they should be used.
Vereen can get some carries down the road, but this upcoming game is the not the time. For now, he should be used in just passing situations so he gets reacquainted with the flow of the game. This is best for his long-term outlook.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com.