NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
I made a comment in my latest Patriots roster projection that a lot of Patriots fans took umbrage with. That statement was that Shane Vereen COULD be on the roster bubble.
Now I’m here to explain myself and to continue that conversation.
The facts are that Shane Vereen was the fourth RB to take snaps last Thursday against the Saints. He’s also been running with the third team at practice. Therefore, in my mind, all signs point to him being passed by Brandon Bolden on the depth chart.
There’s a lot of excuses being made for Vereen by Patriots fans. That Belichick was trying different things, that Vereen has a different role as a third down/change of pace back, that Belichick wanted to give opportunities to players with less experience.
Excuse my French, but I think that’s a load of hooey. When Vereen did play on Thursday and when I’ve seen him getting snaps in practice, it’s with the same role as Bolden or Ridley as an every down back. Vereen was getting the lion’s share of carries against the Saints, he was not being used strictly in the receiving game or as a change of pace.
Vereen also needs reps and experience as much as anyone on this team. He barely played last preseason after getting injured and he only got carries in two games last season. This isn’t a scenario where a rookie is getting snaps over a proven veteran that you don’t want to risk getting hurt. Vereen had an extra year with the playbook, but Bolden and Vereen are almost on the same playing field as far as in game snaps.
The fact that Belichick saw something in the first two weeks of training camp that suggested Bolden should be getting more snaps and playing time ahead of Vereen is concerning. I’m not sure if it speaks more to how impressive Bolden has been or to the flaws that Belichick obviously sees in Vereen, but it’s there.
Now, do I think Vereen will get cut? No, I don’t. I also hope he doesn’t get cut or traded. I think he’s a very talented, explosive back that could contribute in a number of ways to this team both on the ground and through the air. But, he’s currently sitting fourth on the depth chart and that’s a place no player wants to be. If the Patriots elect to keep a fullback, will they keep five running backs? Maybe, maybe not, which is why I threw out the possibility that Vereen is on the roster bubble. Any player that’s that far down the depth chart would have to be considered on the bubble.
This may confuse some people, but I do think Vereen will be used in the NFL as a third down/change of pace back. I said earlier that that excuse was BS is because he’s not being used that way in practice or against the Saints. Because that’s the role I see from Vereen, I think he could be seen as redundant with Danny Woodhead. I said this on twitter earlier, but I’ll say it again. You need two running backs like Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, you don’t need two backs like Woodhead and Vereen.
Back when Belichick and McDaniels were working together in 2008 and 2009, it was common to see the Patriots take the three RBs and one FB approach. In recent years, it’s been more common for the Patriots and McDaniels coached offenses to keep four RBs and one FB. That could mean the difference between Vereen staying on the roster or not.
Once again, I don’t think Vereen will get cut, I don’t think he’ll get traded, but when you’re fourth on the depth chart, that possibility does exist. With all the high hopes we had for Taylor Price last year as a second year player, I don’t think anyone expected him to get cut midway through the season. Vereen and Price’s essentially redshirted first years were very similar. Now Vereen needs to prove that he worked harder in the offseason and knows the offense better than Price.
That is what it’s all about in the Patriots system, trust. Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick need to trust Shane Vereen to know the playbook and be in the right place at the right time.