Heading into Monday night’s prime time game against the Carolina Panthers, the New England Patriots were decimated by injuries. While this is still the case heading into Week 12, they did see the return of a dynamic player on their offense in Week 11 in RB Shane Vereen.
In his return, Vereen did not disappoint, catching eight passes for 65 yards and in the process, converting several third down plays that the Patriots needed. This is even more impressive when you realize that the linebacker covering him was Luke Kuechly, one of the best inside linebackers in the league right now.
However, he only had one rush on the night for seven yards. Unfortunately for him, Stevan Ridley lost a fumble for the second time already this year, and the Patriots chose to plug in LeGarrette Blount as his replacement.
Now, while Vereen may not have the size of a guy like Blount, he is by no means a small running back. He stands at 5-foot-10 and 205 pound. He can, and should be a multi-purpose back for the team similar to how Pierre Thomas has been used for the New Orleans Saints this year.
Anyone who watches him in action can see that Vereen possesses much better hands in the passing game and better overall speed than Blount or Ridley, and he does not fumble nearly as much as the two of them.
Additionally, if the Patriots continue to use Vereen exclusively as a third-down pass catcher, opposing teams will eventually pick up on that and simply not allow him to catch the football in open space. If the Patriots were to run with him more often and on more than just third downs, it would keep the defense guessing as to whether he is going to catch, run, or block for Tom Brady.
Vereen can do it all as a goal-line back, a runner in open space, a receiver and a blocker. The Patriots must realize that a player with his skill set needs to be on the field to do as many different things as possible for their offense to succeed. He is by far the shiftiest and most dependable running back when healthy, and it is time the Patriots saw it that way too.