RB Shane Vereen has always been a dynamic player. Whether it be in college or in the NFL with the New England Patriots, he has been productive everywhere he’s been. He has shown he can contribute in many different ways, including as a receiver, running back and as an efficient pass blocker. He is the fastest and most elusive running back on the roster besides Roy Finch.
With all of his skills, you may wonder why he hasn’t surpassed Stevan Ridley on the depth chart in New England. The answer is simple — injuries. Unfortunately for him, as soon as Vereen appears ready to earn a more prominent role in the offense, he goes down with some type of injury. Perhaps his most discouraging injury came last season in September. He broke his wrist in Week 1 and did not see the field again until Week 11, hindering any chance of him capitalizing on Ridley’s fumblitis.
There is good news for fans of both the Patriots and Vereen though. He looks fully healthy for the first time since perhaps his rookie season. The fact that he is healthy is showing up on the field in his play too. This preseason, Vereen has certainly made his presence felt. He has caught all seven of his targets for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He has added a total of seven rushes for 25 yards on the ground as well.
Right now, it appears as though Ridley is still having problems holding onto the football. If that trend was to continue into the regular season, it could give Vereen an opportunity to seize the No. 1 spot on the RB depth chart. James White is in the discussion too, but he is still a rookie and probably won’t get the nod over a veteran like Vereen, at least not yet.
Fans of the Patriots know what Vereen can do as a receiver, but he could be a big part of the Patriots’ running game this year as well. LeGarrette Blount is gone, Ridley is on thin ice, and Brandon Bolden may be on the roster bubble at this point. As for Finch, he probably isn’t a threat for carries either, although he might be a threat on special teams as a kick returner. Jonas Gray probably doesn’t present much of a threat to Vereen either despite a decent preseason.
Appearing healthy and entering into a contract year, the Patriots will want to see what Vereen can do in several phases of the game this season. Both Vereen and Ridley will be free agents at the end of the season. The Patriots probably can’t keep both of them and will have to choose which one is worthy of re-signing. A chance at a big payday should light a fire under Vereen specifically, motivating him to stay healthy and produce.
If he can stay healthy, look for him to be heavily involved in the offense in 2014 both as a running back and receiver, especially if Ridley ends up in the doghouse again. Vereen will be out to prove that he is not fragile and that he can be a dangerous back in the league. Expect a monster year out of him.
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