Brandon Bolden’s Success: What Does it Mean for Shane Vereen?

Brandon Bolden Shane Vereen

Is Brandon Bolden making Shane Vereen expendable? (Photo: US Presswire)


NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

The New England Patriots drafted California running back Shane Vereen with the No. 56 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, there was an expectation that he would become an immediate and long-term contributor for their offense.

A quick, elusive runner with good receiving skills, who ran for 2,834 rushing yards over three college seasons, Vereen came into the league projected at least to be a contributing situational back in the NFL.

Just four games into his second season, Vereen is far from being on track to those expectations.

As a rookie, Vereen played in just five games, and had just 15 total carries for 57 yards. In 2012, he was inactive for the season’s first three games.

Vereen finally saw the field on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills, but received just one carry, on which he did not gain a single yard. His only positive yardage came off of a screen pass on the game’s second play from scrimmage, on which he gained five yards.

While injuries and subpar performances in limited action have kept Vereen off of the field, the Patriots’ other young running backs have stepped up in the first quarter of the season.

Fellow second-year back Stevan Ridley, who was selected later in the same draft as Vereen as the No. 73 overall pick, ranks ninth in the NFL in rushing yards with 339 through four games. What really spells trouble for Vereen’s value to the Patriots, however, is the emergence of undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden.

Following in the footsteps of former Patriots and current Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bolden was signed by the Patriots out of Ole Miss, and a strong preseason earned him a spot on the team’s final 53-man roster. Now, Bolden should have earned himself a spot in the team’s running back rotation with a 137-yard rushing day versus the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Ridley should have a firm hold on the Patriots’ role as the featured running back, but the window was wide open following Green-Ellis’ departure for Vereen to step in and become the No. 2 running back in the rotation.

In one game, Bolden may have slammed that window shut.

Through a tremendous second-half offensive performance in which the Patriots scored on seven consecutive possessions, Bolden played a starring role in carrying the offense to victory, making it clear he belongs to remain a part of the Patriots’ running back rotation going forward.

The spot that Bolden should now occupy, however, was the only one remaining for any significant amount of playing time at running back for the Patriots, expect in the event that injuries should occur. Expect Ridley and Bolden, both powerful backs who can handle a bulk load of carries, to split the main load of carries going forward, while veteran Danny Woodhead should continue to hold a role as a third-down back as the team’s best receiving and blocking back.

That leaves Vereen’s potential to ever become a significant contributor in serious question.

His best bet would be if the Patriots decide not to re-sign Danny Woodhead, who is an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, as Vereen’s ability as a pass receiver could enable him to fulfill Woodhead’s as a third-down/situational back. However, if Vereen fails to see any significant playing time in 2012, can the Patriots possibly count on him for an important role going into 2013?

Running back is a position where rookies are expected to contribute immediately, especially when they are selected in the early rounds, so it should not be sugarcoated: the fact that Vereen only has 16 carries and 57 yards through 20 regular-season games he potentially could have played in to start his NFL career is unacceptably low production.

The Patriots will certainly be hoping for a late bloomer out of Vereen, as a team always wants to get production out of a second-round pick. In terms of recent Patriots second-round selections, however, it appears Vereen’s production is more likely to resemble that of Chad Jackson or Darius Butler than it will of Rob Gronkowski or Sebastian Vollmer.

Fortunately for the Patriots, if Bolden ends up becoming a consistently productive running back in their offense, finding an undrafted gem would offset much of the disappointment if Vereen fails to amount to significance in their offense. For Vereen, however, he must find a way to emerge from the shadows in the Patriots’ offense, or the team will move forward without his lack of contribution.

Tags: Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen

7 Responses to “Brandon Bolden’s Success: What Does it Mean for Shane Vereen?”

  1. I think Woodhead is a better option than Vereen because he can block rushers on third down, something that Vereen has not shown he can do and still be a safety valve for Brady.

    • qwerty says:

      Patriots are RB by committee. It’s about the next player stepping up when another one goes down.

      5’7″ 195 lbs Woodhead
      5’9″ 205 lbs Vereen

  2. qwerty says:

    Vereen’s future will really come down to how healthy he can stay and not his current production.

    Patriots are a RB by committee group. Along the way, one of the RB’s will get injured so Vereen will get his reps. I think he has sufficient ability to perform on the field.

    If Vereen can stay healthy enough, his stock should rise. Not worried about him at this point.

  3. Nick says:

    I don’t think we’re over-reacting at all. Vereen has been plagued with injuries for his 20-game career. And has only had 1 good quarter of football in his career(last year, in garbage time). Ridley has proven he can be a hybrid player… He’s strong and powerful enough for up the gut running, and he’s quick and elusive for the outside running game. And after what Bolden showed us on Sunday, he’s pretty much a clone of that. Until Ridley & Bolden show otherwise, Vereen will never have a monster game unless it comes in garbage time. And belichick has shown in the past that he is not willing to waste a roster spot just because a guy was a 2nd round pick. My guess is that…Ridley & Bolden finish the year off a strong 1,2 punch. In the off-season the Pats sign Woodhead for very cheap money. And the Patriots cut vereen when they cut the rosters down to 53 in 2013. I like Vereen, but NFL is all about consistency. And you can’t be consistent when you can’t stay healthy, to take advantage of oppurtunity.

  4. Hunter says:

    Patriot’s fans have to be the most reactionary fans in the NFL. After the Baltimore game everyone was clamoring for McCourty to be cut, focusing on two missed INTs and one missed tackle, rather than a majority of a good game. One week later, they realize he can still play. At the beginning of the season everyone thinks Wes Welker is done in NE and will be going the way of the Moss. Guess they were wrong about that too.

    Now I understand you’d rather see Vereen contributing more, but we always read about how Belichick customizes weekly game plans. Would you send your small, quick back on your dive and trap plays up the middle, straight through two of the best DTs in the league? Or would you send your two bigger backs? Kyle Williams said that they were running 3 running plays, and obviously very successfully, up the middle. Had the gameplan called for more bounce-out perimeter runs, Vereen might have seen the field more.

    As for Woodhead, he has looked like a kid playing on his older brother’s team this year. I don’t see them paying much for him to stick around, and Vereen will have more of a role there in the future. All I’m saying is, don’t count this guy out yet. I’d be willing to bet, in typical Belichick fashion, you will see at least one game this year where Ridley barely plays and Vereen looks like an all star, all based on the team-specific game plan.

    • Lundahl says:

      Woodhead is a playmaker, you’re a dork. And Vereen has injury issues every week and it’s a problem if you to see playing time on the field. Vene if he actually does manage to get healthy, I don’t see BB sacrificing playing from Ridley, Bolden and Woodhead just for him.

    • td says:

      As with all players, if they don’t show anything in practice, they are not playing unless everyone in front of them gets injured during the game.



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