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Five thoughts on a possible reset of Patriots running game

09.09.13 at 5:32 pm ET
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With Stevan Ridley having ball security issues, Shane Vereen now focusing on a broken bone in his wrist, and the reintroduction of Leon Washington back into the mix, here are five thoughts regarding a possible reset at running back for the Patriots.

1. The loss of Vereen for any length of time will be a big blow to this offense, as his multidimensional abilities bring a unique skill set to the New England passing game. In his place — provided he’s ready — some of those snaps could go to Washington, who has filled that role of third-down back in the past to great acclaim. (He’s posted 146 catches over the course of his seven-plus years in the NFL.) However, there remains some question as to just how much he has left in the tank, as he has clearly shifted over the last few years from an offensive threat to more of a special teams presence, specifically as a kick returner. He could provide some support in the running game but probably is more of a depth addition at this stage of his career.

2. Prior to the news that Vereen will be on the shelf for an extended stretch, it was my belief that he could have served as the lead back. His body type might not necessarily fit the mold as a feature back who could carry an NFL offense over the course of a 16-game season, but I was reminded of his between-the-tackles ability that his college position coach Ron Gould noted when I spoke with him for this story shortly after the Patriots drafted Vereen. It’s worth mentioning that Vereen flashed some of that ability down the stretch against the Bills. While the idea may be moot now that Vereen will be out for a few weeks with his injury — which could force Ridley back into the lineup, regardless of whether or not he’s in Bill Belichick‘s doghouse — it’s an option to consider down the road.

3. At this point, if Ridley does continue to stumble, expect the reps to be split between LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. Bolden struggled with injury over the course of the offseason and into the summer, but he remains a viable option as a changeup presence in the backfield. Blount didn’t exactly dazzle in the regular season opener — he ended up with 15 yards on seven carries — but is a good get-you-over option for a week or two if needed.

4. The state of the young pass catchers could also figure into how much the Patriots rely on the running game over the next few weeks, particularly wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and tight end Zach Sudfeld. Both youngsters struggled in the opener against the Bills, but if they are able to progress and take on more of the offensive workload, that could relieve some of the targets that would go toward Vereen or Washington.

5. There’s always the possibility of some more roster moves. That’s not to suggest they’d go out and target an available free agent (strictly for depth moves), but there are some possibilities, including George Winn, a young running back who impressed in limited action over the course of the summer. Winn, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound rookie out of Cincinnati, had 14 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown in the preseason finale against Giants but was cut on Aug. 31. This is not to suggest that Winn would be able to contribute immediately, but he could be more of a depth signing at this point. (It’s important to note that in the context of this conversation, there are no running backs on the New England practice squad.)

Read More: Brandon Bolden, George Winn, Kenbrell Thompkins, LeGarrette Blount

Josh McDaniels: Stevan Ridley ‘needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball’

09.09.13 at 3:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels knows how talented fumble-prone running back Stevan Ridley is.

He also knows that he won’t see the field if he can’t find a way to stop drop the ball.

Ridley lost the ball twice Sunday, and was fortunate that only one was ruled a fumble. He lost two of four fumbles in the regular season in 2012 and was drilled during the AFC championship and lost a fumble to the Ravens. He fumbled twice at the end of the 2011 season and was benched for the AFC championship and Super Bowl.

“I think you try to make decisions based on what you feel like is best for the team at each individual time,” McDaniels said during Monday’s conference call with reporters. “[Sunday], we made the choice to go with Shane and LeGarrette. Stevan needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball, and he knows that.”

Still, that one fumble resulted in a likely 14-point swing in the game. Despite that, the Patriots managed to overcome the turnover and win. The Patriots turned to Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount the rest of the game.

But now, there’s an added factor – the broken left wrist of Shane Vereen. Injury or no injury, McDaniels knows he has to find a way to help Vereen hold onto the ball.

“We will work hard with him on that, and he’€™ll work hard as well to make sure that we don’€™t do that anymore, but I think any decision on the future or what is going to happen this week or next week, I don’€™t think those have been made yet,” McDaniels said. “Our job as coaches is to work with our players to improve the things that they might not be doing as well as we want them to do, and to try and get better. Ultimately, we will try to play the best guys that give us the best chances to win.”

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Read More: Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots, nfl, Shane Vereen

With Shane Vereen out, Bill Belichick leans on ‘versatility’ of Julian Edelman

09.09.13 at 2:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With Shane Vereen expected to be out several weeks with a broken left wrist, Zach Sudfeld nursing a sore hamstring, Danny Amendola dealing with a groin injury and Rob Gronkowski still working his way back to full strength, now is a great time for Julian Edelman to rise to the top.

Edelman caught seven passes on nine targets for 79 yards while catching Tom Brady‘s only two touchdowns on the day in the Patriots’ 23-21 win over the Bills.

Bill Belichick was asked during his conference call Monday morning about Edelman’s versatility.

“We’€™ve seen Julian do a lot of different things for us: he’€™s returned kicks, he’€™s covered kicks, he’€™s played defense, he’€™s run with the ball, he’€™s caught the ball,” Belichick said. “He has a lot of different skills and we’€™ve used him in a lot of different ways with the ball in his hands. He’€™s an aggressive blocker and also as I said, in the kicking game and on defense. Versatility is definitely one of his strengths. He’€™s a tough kid, he’€™s a good competitor, he has good body strength, he’€™s got some speed and he’€™s got quickness. He’€™s got a lot of things going for him.”

“Julian has always been a versatile guy for us,” added offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “He’€™s been able to play multiple positions. He is a tough player, he is a tough competitor, he can make plays on the perimeter and he can go inside and do some of the things inside that we ask him to do. Yesterday he came up with quite a few big catches for us, and certainly a few big plays for us in the red zone and on third down that were really critical for us. [He] is a guy that works hard, tries to come in and do his best at everything we ask him to do. He is always prepared for the game and tries to make the most of his opportunities, and yesterday I thought he really helped us.”

In just five seasons in the NFL, Edelman Sunday became the NFL’€™s career leader in punt return average, with 75 returns and a career average of 13.05 yards, including three touchdowns.

“We value it quite a bit,” Belichick said. “I don’€™t think it’€™s underrated at all. Another example of Julian ‘€“ he never returned punts, he came into the NFL, learned how to do it, learned how to be a receiver. [He] played the quarterback position in college at Kent State and all the positions really that he’€™s played in the NFL ‘€“ covering kicks, returning kicks, slot receiver, outside receiver, slot defender ‘€“ he didn’€™t do any of those things in college. I think that really speaks to his versatility and how much he’€™s grown as a player and how many things he’€™s learned how to do that he really didn’€™t have much experience with in college. I’€™d say that’€™s pretty unusual, especially to be as competent in them as he is.”

As for Vereen, Belichick did not specifically address his broken wrist since news of the injury did not break until several hours after the call ended.

Belichick was asked about Vereen’s size (5-feet-10, 205 pounds) and whether there’s any hesitation to use him more than a traditional player in that role, like Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead from what we’€™ve seen in the past, based on his build.

“I think they’€™re all kind of in the same ballpark,” Belichick said. “It depends on what you’€™re doing. Certainly he can play on all three downs; he showed that in college and we saw some of that yesterday. Whether that’€™s his best role or whether it’€™s a complementary role, it might change from game to game, it might change during the course of the season, it might change from season to season based on the rest of your roster and what type of plays you’€™re running offensively. He has good versatility to play really on all four downs. He helped us in the kicking game as well yesterday. I think some of that is game plan, some of it has been obviously his development as a young player and also some of it works around your roster and your match-ups and individual games.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, nfl

Report: Shane Vereen to have surgery on broken wrist, out for a few weeks

09.09.13 at 1:45 pm ET
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Patriots running back Shane Vereen will be out a few weeks after breaking a bone in his wrist during the first play of Sunday’s win over the Bills, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Monday afternoon.

According to Glazer, Vereen played through the injury but experienced numbness after the game as the bone sat on the nerve. He is scheduled to have surgery Monday.

Vereen finished the day with 14 carries for 101 yards and seven catches for 58 yards. He played a bigger role after teammate Stevan Ridley was benched following his third-quarter fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, multiple reports indicate tight end Zach Sudfeld suffered a pulled hamstring in the game.

Read More: Shane Vereen, Zach Sudfeld,

Sebastian Vollmer on M&M: ‘We know we didn’t play well enough’

09.09.13 at 12:35 pm ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer appeared on Mut & Merloni on Monday and acknowledged that his team hardly played its best football in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Bills.

‘€œWe know we didn’€™t play well enough,’€ Vollmer said. ‘€œWe’€™ve got some fixing to do and adjustments to do. [We’ll] watch some film and start working on it today.’€

A sloppy afternoon from a usually crisp offense was highlighted by running back Stevan Ridley‘s fumble that was returned for a Buffalo touchdown. Ridley subsequently was benched.

Vollmer harbored no resentment toward Ridley for his error.

‘€œIf you make a mistake, we’€™re all professionals, we all know what we did wrong and what happened and no one does it on purpose,” Vollmer said. “Any player that makes a mistake feels bad about it.”

Despite the poor play on the offensive side, the Patriots were able to put together a game-winning drive on the road behind Tom Brady. Trailing by one point with 4:31 remaining, Brady orchestrated a 12-play, 48-yard drive that set up a 35-yard, game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with five seconds remaining.

Vollmer, now a fifth-year mainstay on the line, has seen drives akin to that a number of times, with Brady being vocal and emotional.

‘€œHe’€™s done this for a long, long time now, and he lives for these moments,’€ Vollmer said of Brady. ‘€œOnce again, he pulled it out — or, we pulled it out.

‘€œObviously when it’s a close game, you have maybe one or two possessions left, you can’t afford any more mistakes and you’€™ve just got to pull it out somehow, and just make sure everyone is on the same page, and everyone is ready to go and concentrating on what comes next.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Sebastian Vollmer, Stephen Gostkowski, Stevan Ridley, Tom Brady

Jerod Mayo on M&M: ‘By any means necessary, we’re going to win these games’

09.09.13 at 11:43 am ET
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Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to recap the Patriots’ 23-21 victory over the Bills.

Mayo walked off the field alongside Tom Brady after Sunday’s win, a game that was much closer than many anticipated.

“We didn’t talk about too much,” Mayo said with a laugh. “I pretty much let him know that, hey, by any means necessary, we’re going to win these games. It doesn’t matter what the score is. If it’s 42-43 or 3-0, we’ve just got to find a way to win. Yesterday was a tough game. We were on the road against a division opponent. They always play us tough. That was a good win for us.”

Added Mayo: “It’s hard to win in this league. You’ll take a win over a loss any day. We’re happy to get the win. Obviously we see where we need to improve. But it’s only one game. We have a long way to go. We’ll take it one day at a time. I think the guys are positive but at the same time realize that we have a lot of improvements to make in every phase.”

Even when the Patriots squandered an early double-digit lead and were trailing in the fourth quarter, the Patriots stayed focused on the task at hand and pulled out the win with a last-minute field goal.

“There were no heads hanging or anything like that. Guys knew what we had to do,” Mayo said. “Our job is to keep them out of the end zone and get the ball to our offense’s hands as many times as possible. That was the mindset of the guys. There was no finger-pointing or anything like that. Guys just knew, hey, we have to go out here and make a play and get the ball back. Fortunately, we were able to do that.”

The Jets visit Foxboro on Thursday, leaving the Patriots little time to celebrate their first win of the season.

“The Jets have a good team. They’re 1-0 as well,” Mayo said. “We enjoyed the Buffalo win the length of that flight [home] yesterday. We’re moving on. All of our focus now is on the Jets.”

Added Mayo: “I love playing against the Jets. It’s always a good game. They play football the way it’s supposed to be played — power running scheme. They have a new quarterback now that can run around a little bit. So, we’ll see what they bring in.”

To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Jerod Mayo,

Adam Schefter on D&C: New-look Patriots offense lacks chemistry

09.09.13 at 10:06 am ET
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about the Patriots’ 23-21 win over the Bills in Sunday’s opener.

Despite the victory, the Patriots left the game with concerns — namely, the lack of production from Tom Brady‘€™s weapons. Brady targeted starting wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins 14 times, but the rookie was only able to make four catches for 42 yards. Meanwhile, the tight end position collectively had one catch: a five-yard reception from Michael Hoomanawanui.

Schefter explained that with young, inexperienced players at impact positions, it may take some time for the offense to jell.

‘€œTo expect them to be great early on, right away, without some of that chemistry is probably unrealistic,’€ said Schefter. ‘€œYou don’€™t just lose these guys and pick up these other guys and think that that machine is going to run the same way.’€

One of the bright spots on the offensive side was the play of wide receiver Danny Amendola, whom the Patriots signed this offseason to replace Wes Welker.

Amendola set game highs in catches (10) and receiving yards (104) and converted a pair of key third downs in New England’€™s game-winning drive. The fifth-year receiver put a scare into the Patriots faithful when he limped off the field toward the end of the first half and sat out the remainder of the period.

Amendola’€™s groin injury did not force him out of the second half, but Schefter questioned New England’€™s next step if the oft-injured Amendola, who missed 20 games in the last two seasons, were to suffer another serious injury.

‘€œWhen Amendola goes out of the game like that, and you know how fragile he has been in the past, you can’€™t help but wonder, ‘€˜What if he is gone?’ ‘€ said Schefter.

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Read More: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman
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