New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen was back on the field on Monday night for the first time since breaking his wrist in Week 1. Vereen has practiced for a couple of weeks prior to the clash with the Carolina Panthers, and he was unsurprisingly activated ahead of the game. Most of us expected the Patriots to give Vereen a light workload and ease him into things, but the Patriots threw it to Vereen early and often. He finished the loss with eight receptions for 65 yards, and Vereen also had seven catches for 58 yards in Week 1.
Vereen has become a huge part of the Patriots offense now, and he is already one of the NFL’s finer all-purpose backs. He’s so good and explosive that Patriots fans certainly aren’t bemoaning the loss of Danny Woodhead, no matter how much he was loved by the fan base. Vereen is probably an even better player because of the threat of the big-play that comes with him. He is also a very versatile weapon who can line up in the slot or even split out wide, thus making him a huge mis-match for defenses. Throwing it to Vereen helps ease the pass rush, and that’s exactly what the Patriots did in order to help slow down the Panthers top-notch front seven.
Tom Brady certainly knows how big of a role Vereen plays in the Patriots offense, and he gave the third-year back out of Cal some high praise. From the Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young, “Since the middle of last year, he has really emerged and developed into that role. I think the best part is he really understands the importance and magnitude of that role and takes a lot of pride in it. It’s a hugely important part of our offense.”
Against Von Miller and Shaun Phillips on Sunday night, expect the Patriots to throw the ball to Vereen plenty of times in an effort to slow down Jack Del Rio’s pass rush and also to help open things up deep for Aaron Dobson. With Rahim Moore out, the Broncos are susceptible to getting burned deep. Not only that, but it’s always a good idea to give the ball to a playmaker like Vereen when he’s in space, because he’s dangerous. He’s also a reliable safety valve at times, too, so he’s versatile in that sense.
Brady added some more important thoughts on what Vereen brings to the table, “He gets single coverage, he gets out. It’s not a typical position because there’s blocking, you have to run the ball, you’ve got to get your blitz pickup, you’ve got to get out on the route, you’ve got to get open, you’ve got to catch the ball, and you’ve got to do something with it.”