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Shane Vereen leads Patriots running backs in preseason opener

08.10.12 at 1:51 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots offense was very limited in Thursday’€™s 7-6 preseason win over the Saints, but among the few standouts was second-year running back Shane Vereen.

On the Patriots’€™ 97-yard touchdown drive that led to their only score of the game, Vereen amounted to 73 total yards (63 rushing) before Brian Hoyer tossed a three-yard touchdown pass to Britt Davis. During that drive, the Valencia, Calif. native had three rushes of ten yards or more.

Vereen, who was picked 56th overall in 2011 (17 slots ahead of fellow Patriots running back Stevan Ridley) did not get much playing time last year. The Cal-Berkeley product got hurt and missed time during training camp, leaving him behind while a backfield of Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Benjarvus Green-Ellis took center stage.

However, with Green-Ellis gone and Vereen healthy, he has a chance to push for more playing time. Vereen showed that he can be a capable runner on Thursday when he rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries in the second half.

With that rushing total on the day, Vereen rushed for more yards on Thursday than he did all of last season (15 carries for 57 yards).

The 23-year-old also made two catches for 17 yards coming out of the backfield on Thursday, and served as a third-down back while undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden was getting carries on first and second down late in the game.

The Patriots’€™ backfield is very young right now, as Woodhead is the old man of the group at age 27. However, Vereen said after the game that despite their youth, the backs work together to make an effective unit.

‘€œ[Woodhead] does the best he can to keep us informed so we don’€™t feel so much like rookies. But every now and then stuff comes up that we haven’€™t handled before,’€ Vereen said.

As for competition between the rushers, the most easily comparable of the running backs are Vereen and Ridley because they entered the league at the same time. On Thursday, Ridley carried the ball eight times for 40 yards.

‘€œI think more than trying to one-up each other, I think we learn from each other as far as mistakes, because we both make a ton of mistakes,’€ Vereen said.  ‘€œWe learn from that. If he makes a mistake out there I’€™ll know next time on my rep not to make the same mistake, and vice-versa.’€

With games like he had on Thursday night, Vereen will be sure to get more chances with the ball as the preseason continues. Vereen is looking to capitalize on those chances.

‘€œYou are only given so many opportunities,’€ Vereen said. ‘€œTo be able to go out there and be able to play well as an offense ‘€“ we still have a ton, a ton to work on and to get better with ‘€“ but for that little drive I felt like the offense, we did pretty well.’€

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Shane Vereen,
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