NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
It’s July 16th, do you know what that means? We’re ten days removed from breaking out the shorts and shells!
Sure, the young 2012 Patriots roster is coming off a crushing Super Bowl loss, but hopefully that just increases their hunger to earn that illustrious ring.
Because this roster if chock-full of young players, there’s always hope that some of those present role players will turn into future stars, or at least reliable starters. I will be breaking down my top five break out candidates in today’s column.
Shane Vereen, RB
With two-year leading rusher Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis gone to Cincinnati, there leaves a hole open for a new bell cow in town. Likely what we’ll see is a running back by committee approach taken by Bill Belichick and new (old) offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The Patriots leading candidates for carries are Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Joseph Addai and Shane Vereen.
Last year’s second round pick, Vereen, lost some time and carry potential last offseason due to injuries and the lockout. That allowed last year’s third round pick, Ridley, to become last season’s break out RB.
Vereen flashed when he did get carries and has more potential as an explosive weapon in the Patriots offense. In my opinion if there’s one running back on the Patriots offense who could become that 1,000 yard rusher and potential All-Pro, it’s Vereen due to his speed, receiving ability and cutback skills. He was especially impressive in his eight carries against the Chiefs when he gained 49 yards and a TD.
Ridley was impressive in 2011, but I think he may be better used as a short yardage, or clock killing back a la Green-Ellis or Corey Dillon. Woodhead will resume his role as a third down back/no huddle specialist. Joseph Addai will likely be used as a reserve, if he winds up making the team.
Marcus Cannon, OT/OG
The Patriots offensive line is far from a sure thing this season. Matt Light has retired, Sebastian Vollmer has chronic back issues, Nate Solder looked good but is still unproven, Logan Mankins is coming off ACL surgery, Brian Waters still has not officially announced that he’s coming back (though he should be) and the center position should be a positional battle in camp. What does all of that mean? Marcus Cannon should be getting some valuable snaps.
Like Vereen, Cannon also missed some time early last season. Cannon’s was due to recovery from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but still came back and got significant playing time while Vollmer was hurt and Solder was playing TE.
Cannon can play tackle or guard and should be competing with Robert Gallery for chief backup snaps. With Waters getting older and due to retire in the next year or two, someone will need to be able to step up and take over the right guard position. Cannon was a great value as a 5th round pick in the 2011 draft with his elite size, strength and mobility. If he can break out in 2012, he could wind up being one of the steals of that draft.
Defensive breakout candidates are on page two.