|Running back Shane Vereen seeking more consistency in 2013||05.14.13 at 5:55 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Exit Danny Woodhead, enter Shane Vereen.
In the wake of Woodhead’s decision to sign a free-agent deal with the Chargers this offseason, the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Vereen figures to take over the role of Patriots’ third-down back in 2013 on a full-time basis.
The Cal product, who got a small taste of the workload last season, flashed positively at times throughout the season, including a three- touchdown performance in the divisional playoff round against the Texans.
“What I learned from that [game] is that I can do it, confidence wise,” said Vereen, who had two receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the win. “It helps, but it’s a new season. Anything can happen. You’re starting from ground zero.”
Vereen, who finished the 2012 season with 62 carries for 251 yards and three touchdowns and eight catches for 149 yards and one touchdown, knows that it’s one thing to perform at a high level for a game here or there. It’s another thing to do it on a consistent basis, something that’s eluded the 24-year-old over his first two seasons in the league for a couple reasons: One, Woodhead was ahead of him on the depth chart, and his durability and skills allowed him to get the bulk of the snaps as the primary third-down option out of the backfield.
“It’s going to be hard to replace a guy like Woody,” Vereen said of Woodhead, who in 2012 became the first New England running back to finish a season with at least 40 catches and 40 carries since Kevin Faulk did it in 2008. “He had a lot of experience. He had a lot of knowledge. He’s a smart player. His role was pretty key to the team. I learned a lot from him. You can’t really replace him. All you can do is move on and hope to get better from there.”
And two, Vereen struggled with injury at times over his first two seasons, including hamstring and foot issues.
“Injuries are never good — it’s always frustrating,” he said. “You want to be out there as much as possible, so when I’m not, it’s disheartening. But I’m out there now, and I’m trying to stay as healthy as possible.”
Now, this Golden Bear realizes he has a golden opportunity. As a result, he’s sharpened his focus, saying that he’s approaching the 2013 season “a little bit differently than I did last season” when it comes to his role on the team.
“There’s a little more focus on my part. There has to be,” he said. “[I need to] just be more consistent. More reliable. That comes with practice and that comes with time, so hopefully we’ll get there,” he said Tuesday in between workouts at Gillette Stadium.”
“I was ready to play, probably last week,” he added. “Just getting back and getting the itch for it. You kind of miss it now that we’ve been out a couple of months. It’s coming. It’ll be here faster than we realize. The itch is back.”
|Resetting depth chart in Patriots backfield||03.19.13 at 2:10 pm ET|
We hit the reset button on the Patriots’ defensive back depth chart the other day, and with a few changes over the first week of free agency at the running back spot, we’ll do the same thing now for the New England backfield. With the understanding that things can change dramatically between now and the start of the season, here’s a look at the Patriots’ depth chart at running back as it stands right now.
Stevan Ridley: After finishing the 2012 season with 290 carries, 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, if he stays healthy the LSU product figures to be the closest thing to a lead back again for the Patriots in 2013.
Shane Vereen: Displayed enough of a multidimensional flair late in the year to render Danny Woodhead expendable (Woodhead signed with the Chargers as a free agent). Vereen figures to take over many of the responsibilities that fell to Danny Woodhead over the last few seasons, particularly when it came to serving as the third-down and changeup back.
Leon Washington: More of a third-down back and option in the passing game than a traditional between-the-tackles runner, Washington — who projects as more of a special teamer at this point — will likely provide depth for Vereen, at least as things stand right now.
Brandon Bolden: The undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss had one terrific game (he rushed for 137 yards in Buffalo against the Bills), but wasn’t used much late in the season for several reasons, including a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He finished the season with 56 carries for 274 yards, and right now, projects to be Ridley’s backup as the big, between-the-tackles back.
Jeff Demps: A bit of a wild card at this point because of his reported interest in working part-time in track and field (we got into his situation here), he could serve as a multipurpose threat in the same mold as Washington if he does end up sticking around.
James Develin: The Brown product was a fringe guy last season, spending time with both the Patriots and Bengals before being added to the New England practice squad in September and the active roster in December. At 6-foot-3 and 251 pounds, probably more of a fullback type.
Tony Fiammetta: The fullback was just reinstated to the active roster on Monday after spending all of 2012 out of the game.
|Shane Vereen on M&M: Pats RBs enjoy friendly competition||01.14.13 at 12:38 pm ET|
Running back Shane Vereen, one of the heroes of the Patriots’ 41-28 victory over the Texans on Sunday, joined Mut & Merloni at Gillette Stadium on Monday to talk about his three-touchdown performance.
Vereen delivered the knockout blow Sunday, hauling in a 33-yard touchdown pass along the sideline in the fourth quarter.
“It was a favorable matchup,” he said of having a linebacker covering him. “It was what we practiced all week, and we were able to hit it in the game.”
Discussing the Patriots’ complex offense, Vereen said it present challenges trying to stay on the same page as the quarterback.
“It’s tough, because you’ve got to keep up with Tom Brady, who’s a 13-year vet, arguably the greatest quarterback,” Vereen said. “It’s tough sometimes to keep up with him. We go over so much throughout the week that in the game it kind of clicks and is like second nature.”
Vereen is one of a handful of young running backs on the team, and he said it’s a friendly battle to see who can contribute each week.
“It’s great competition,” he said. “We’re so close and it’s such a great group. We want each other to do well. We don’t really care who’s in the game. As long as we’re executing, as long as whoever’s in the game is doing well, we’re happy and the team is happy because we’re getting W’s.”
Asked about Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo‘s critical tweets regarding the Patriots’ hurry-up offense, Vereen said he’s not concerned.
“You keep it in your mind all week and you take care of it on Sunday,” he said.
FOXBORO — Danny Woodhead injured his left thumb on the Patriots’ first offensive snap of the game Sunday. But Bill Belichick indicated that the running back could have returned had the Patriots needed him later.
“Danny was examined and back on the sideline for the remainder of the game,” Belichick said during Monday’s conference call. “Had we needed to use him, he would have been available to go back in there.”
Woodhead left the field and went to the Patriots locker room and was fitted for a brace on his left hand. He returned and was spotted catching passes on the sideline from Ryan Mallett at the half. He did not return in the second half.
Belichick said even though he could’ve returned Sunday, the team now needs to examine him closely this week and doctors will have to clear him before joining the team in on-field preparations for the Ravens on Sunday in the AFC championship.
“Now that we are into a new week, we will re-address the whole situation and try to get a good feel of what he would and wouldn’t be available to do, and how functional he would be doing it. So I would say that’s something we’ll have to look at during the week. Assuming the doctors clear him to play, which is a medical decision, then the next situation would be from a football decision, what can he do and how well can he do it? What is he, and we, comfortable with him doing in this week’s game/game-plan. That would all be determined at a later point in time.”
Shane Vereen replaced Woodhead on the Patriots’ second play of the game and wound up scoring three touchdowns, tying a franchise playoff record.
|Shane Vereen: ‘I come into the game ready to go’||at 2:20 am ET|
FOXBORO — The last we saw of Shane Vereen in the end zone, he was blowing by Bart Scott and scoring an 83-yard touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady on Thanksgiving night against the Jets.
Since then, Vereen has carried the ball 19 times for 92 yards while catching one pass for four yards in four games, but no touchdowns.
But Vereen came rushing into the game on the Patriots’ second offensive play of the day Sunday against the Texans when Danny Woodhead injured his left thumb on a rush into the line.
“I don’t come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play,” Vereen said. “I come into the game ready to go and if my number is called I do my best for the team. Coaches just do a great job keeping us fresh and ready to go.
“We hate to lose Woody. He is such a key part of our offense, but at the same time all of the running backs hold ourselves accountable to be able to step up when somebody does go down.”
Vereen would more than step up. He would bust out for three touchdowns, two receiving and one rushing, and tie the Patriots franchise record for touchdowns in a playoff game, held by Rob Gronkowski and Curtis Martin. His final TD came on a 33-yard “go route” down the left sideline when he was lineup against a linebacker.
“Yes and no. I knew that the matchup was in my favor,” Vereen said. “But at the same time they are great defenders as well. So I have to do a great job at getting open. ”
Now, Vereen and the Patriots have a rematch with the Ravens in the AFC championship.
“It is going to be a great match up,” Vereen said. “It always is between us and the Ravens. We are going to have to go to work this week and get ready to play a great team.”
|Patriots roll Texans for an AFC championship rematch with Ravens||01.13.13 at 7:55 pm ET|
Shane Vereen tied a franchise playoff record with three touchdowns and Tom Brady threw three TD passes as the Patriots did the expected and beat the Texans, 41-28, in their AFC divisional game at Gillette Stadium. Wes Welker caught eight passes for 131 yards and Brady passed Joe Montana for most wins (17) by a quarterback in NFL playoff history. Brady, who finished 25-of-40 for 344 yards, is now 17-6 all-time in the postseason.
The win sets up the first AFC championship rematch since the Broncos and Browns in 1986-87. The Patriots will host the Ravens next Sunday evening at 6:30 at Gillette Stadium.
The three touchdowns by Vereen tied the franchise playoff record for touchdowns in a single game, held by Rob Gronkowski and Curtis Martin.
The Patriots special teams were bad from the beginning. Danieal Manning returning the opening kickoff 94 yards to the Patriots 12 yard line. But the Patriots defense held Matt Schaub and the Texans to just three yards and a 27-yard field goal from Shayne Graham.
The Patriots got the ball and went three-and-out, and lost Danny Woodhead to a left thumb injury on their first offensive play of the game. On the next drive, things got worse when the Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski when he appeared to re-injure his left forearm in trying to make a diving catch deep along the right sideline. Chandler Jones also injured his ankle in the first half and did not return.
The Patriots finally got momentum on the third drive, marching 65 yards in six plays. Vereen ran off left tackle for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead late in the first. The Patriots made it 10-3 on a 37-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski early in the second quarter.
The Patriots appeared to gain full control of the game when they went 80 yards in seven plays for a 17-3 lead. Brady hit Vereen with an eight-yard pass to the short left for the touchdown. The key play on the drive was a Brady to Welker pass down the left sideline for 47 yards to the Houston 8. On the play, Welker caught his 59th postseason pass, passing Troy Brown for the all-time franchise lead.
Welker was huge in the first half, catching six balls for 120 yards
But the first half did not end well. On the ensuing kickoff following Vereen’s second touchdown, Manning returned it 35 yards to the Houston 38. Gostkowski committed a horse collar tackle that added 15 yards. Arian Foster later ran it in from two yards to cut the lead to 17-10. The Patriots got the ball back with 1:09 left and went three-and-out. The Texans got the ball back and managed a 55-yard field goal from Graham to cut New England’s lead to 17-13 at the half. Read the rest of this entry »
|Shane Vereen: ‘I was a little surprised’ to break free on 83-yard TD||11.23.12 at 2:24 am ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD — Shane Vereen – with a big assist from Wes Welker – broke free for a huge touchdown on Thursday night, the touchdown that sparked the 21-point binge in 52 seconds for the Patriots. And it began innocently enough. Tom Brady threw to him on a wheel route out of the backfield, spotting him open on the left sideline.
The key to the play was Wes Welker coming over and chipping linebacker Bart Scott just long enough to spring him down the sideline. Scott was shown on TV huffing and puffing, trying in vain to catch him.
“He had a wheel route and they carried Wes and [Brandon Lloyd] on the outside,” Brady explained. “They [Jets defense] just carried them up the field and there was a lot of space. Once I threw it to him, he’s so fast. He can outrun those guys. He caught it up the sideline and it was nice seeing the back of his jersey running all the way down the field. He opened it up and it was a great play.”
“I was a little surprised,” he said. “I thought the cornerback was on me, but the receivers ran (the coverage) off and I was able to finish the play. As soon as I turned, the ball was on me.”
As for starting a 21-point outburst?
“I’ve never seen it before personally. But, that’s what happens when you play hard,” Vereen said.
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