|Shane Vereen on penalty-free streak of epic proportion||12.19.14 at 7:45 am ET|
The Patriots running back is one of four regulars on this year’s New England roster who has yet to be penalized. Vereen, Vince Wilfork, Devin McCourty and Chris Jones are the four players on the 2014 team who have played at least 475 snaps this season without being hit with a penalty.
But Vereen has taken that streak to the next level. The 2011 draft pick has yet to be flagged as a professional. That’s three-plus seasons in the league without a single penalty — per Pro Football Focus, 1,020 snaps as a professional without a flag.
Informed after practice on Thursday that he had yet to be penalized as a professional, Vereen was taken aback.
“Shoot,” he said with a smile. “That’s crazy. Really?
“I don’t know. It’s interesting,” he said after a second. “I really don’t think about it. I just play and do the best I can. I really don’t think of penalties.
“Now you have me thinking I need to go get one. Get my rep up a little bit.”
Historically, running backs are some of the least penalized players on the team, because they simply have fewer chances to be flagged. (By way of comparison, in the same stretch, fellow running back Stevan Ridley — who arrived as part of the same draft class as Vereen — has only two penalties as a pro.) For a pass-catcher like Vereen, however, there’s always the possibility of him getting hit with an offensive pass interference call. In addition, his work in blitz pickup (holding) could also leave him susceptible.
Vereen said he’d “definitely been flagged in college” a few times when he was at Cal for offsides and holding, but was still amazed that he hadn’t been hit with a penalty since he arrived in the league in 2011.
“I guess technique is the best explanation,” when asked about the secret to his success. “We practice good technique. A lot of times, the stuff I’d probably get called for probably doesn’t get called too often. It has to be pretty blatant and out in the open, so as a running back, you’re able to get away with some of that sort of stuff. Really, the biggest thing is just practicing good technique and putting your hands in the right places so you don’t get called.”
Vereen is also making statistical waves in other areas as well. He’s currently only one of six running backs in the league who can boast of at least 85 carries and 45 catches, part of a group that includes high-profile backs like DeMarco Murray of Dallas, Matt Forte of Chicago, Le’Veon Bell of Pittsburgh, Fred Jackson of Buffalo and Andre Ellington of Arizona.
If he gets to the 50-catch/50-carry mark, he’d be the first New England running back to do it since Kevin Faulk had 83 carries and 58 catches in 2008. Only four running backs in franchise history have ever hit the 50-50 plateau — Faulk (2000 and 2008), Dave Meggett (1995), Leroy Thompson (1994) and Tony Collins (1985 and 1986).
Vereen said Thursday he takes pride in his work as a pass catcher.
“It’s huge. It’s huge. It means a lot to me,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in being able to do three things — running, catching and pass blocking. I take a huge amount of pride in all three, and the fact that they look to me to be able to make a play and make the offense go.”
|Rob Gronkowski, Justin Bieber hang in Los Angeles||12.02.14 at 1:56 am ET|
Several of the Patriots — including Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen — apparently traveled to Los Angeles Monday night to catch the Clippers-Timberwolves game. After the contest, they had the chance to visit the Los Angeles locker room, where they ran into Justin Bieber.
Doc brought Gronk and the Patriots into the locker room. “We have a lot of Cowboys fans, I showed them what a football team looks like.”
‘ Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 2, 2014
|LeGarrette Blount aiming to please Bill Belichick because ‘Bill is a straight-forward shooter’||11.21.14 at 6:12 pm ET|
FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount is indeed getting his No. 29 back. The question now is whether he will regain the good graces of Bill Belichick after the Patriots took him off the trash heap of the waiver wire this week and gave him a two-year contract, and a second chance with a team that has a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
“Bill is a straight-forward shooter, he’s a 100 percent honest person,” Blount told reporters Friday. “I truly believe that if I do what I have to do, then I’ll make myself a role on this team. Whatever I have to do, I’m going to do it to be productive.”
The 6-foot, 247-pound Blount will team with 230-pound Jonas Gray in the Patriots’ backfield, giving the team some depth if they choose to stick with a power game as the weather turns colder.
Blount didn’t want to talk about why he landed in New England because he clearly didn’t feel the same about Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, who didn’t give him a single carry in Monday’s 27-24 win over the Titans. He left before the end of the game, prompting several Steelers to say good riddance to a disgruntled teammate.
Blount said Friday that he was surprised by his release but not scared because he believes his 27-year-old body still has plenty of football left to give.
“It wasn’t scary at all. I feel like I’m talented enough to land on any team,” Blount said. “[But] I wasn’t expecting it, You know, I don’t really want to talk about it. But just the fact it opened up another opportunity for me to get back here ended up being a good thing for me.
“I’m going to stay ready. I’m in good shape. Whenever they call me to carry the ball, I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can do to make them comfortable with their decision to bring me back.”
Blount, who signed a two-year deal with the Patriots Thursday, turned down a Patriots’ offer believed to be significantly less than the two-years, $3.85 million offered by the Steelers in late March. Blount said Friday he had no regrets with signing with Pittsburgh.
“At the time I was comfortable with my decision,” Blount said.
1. In stark contrast to the nasty words that were coming out of the Pittsburgh locker room in the wake of what happened with LeGarrette Blount over the last week, on Thursday, the vibe around the Patriots was all good when it came to the newest Patriot. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great teammate,” while fullback James Develin said it was “good” to have him back. Meanwhile, Jonas Gray — who likely will see his role shrink some with the addition of Blount — said he had no problem with the move, adding that the veteran is is a “great guy to learn from.” As for what sort of role awaits him, it’s likely he’ll split duties with Gray as the primary between-the-tackles back, as well as serve as some sort of insurance policy if the stage gets too big for the youngster, or if he puts the ball on the ground at some point. It’s also possible he sees time as a part-time kick returner — with the occasional exception of Danny Amendola, no one has really done much to distinguish themselves in the position. With his background last year, it certainly makes sense for the Patriots to give him a shot back there.
2. Few teams have seen the type of turnover at the running back position as New England. With the injury to Ridley, if form holds, the Patriots will have their sixth different back lead the team in rushing in 2014 over the last decade — only four other teams (Saints, Browns, Broncos and Cardinals) have had more. Corey Dillon (2004-2006), Laurence Maroney (2007, 2009), Sammy Morris (2008), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2010-2011) and Stevan Ridley (2012-2013). And now, with Ridley on the shelf the rest of the year, this season it figures to be either Vereen, Gray or Blount. That could change again next year, as Brandon Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen are all in the final year of their contracts, while Blount, Gray and rookie James White are all under contract for 2015. (In addition, Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed by the Patriots this summer but is spending the year on injured reserve because of a knee issue, is still a possibility to be a part of the mix next season.) Regardless, even with all the changes, things could still change between now and the start of next season.
3. As forward thinking as the Patriots offense — and the passing game in particular — has been the last few years, there’s something impressively retro about what New England might be able to do this season. If we operate with the idea that a “running back by committee” includes a team with four backs with at least 40 carries, it appears that for the second straight season, the Patriots will attempt to be the first team to win a Super Bowl using the “running back by committee” approach since the 1987 Redskins, who won Super Bowl. Right now, the Patriots three different backs reach with at least 69 carries (Ridley with 94, Vereen with 70 and Gray with 69). While some of those numbers are borne out of necessarily since Ridley went down, if Blount is able to click down the stretch for New England — and it’s entirely possible he can hit the 40-carry mark, given his experience in the system — he would be a fourth. If the Patriots could take the title, it would represent the greatest cross-section of work for running backs for any Super Bowl champion since that Washington team emerged with a win in Super Bowl XXII. (Of course, that Redskins team could be discounted on a penalty, as that was a strike year and one of the backs was a scab who rushed 80 times in three strike games but never played another down. If you disqualify them on a technicality, them the last true RBBC team to win a Super Bowl in a non-strike year was the 1981 Niners, a team that had five different backs finish with 40 carries or more: Ricky Patton, Earl Cooper, Johnny Davis, Walt Easley and Paul Hofer.)
|Patriots foursome on remarkable flag-free streak this season||11.06.14 at 12:14 pm ET|
We have taken lots of time this season to talk about the Patriots penalty woes over the first nine games of the season — as well as the new points of emphasis that have created an occasionally flag-happy environment. But on the flip side, there’s also something to be said about showing an ability to avoid penalties to this point in the year. The following players have played at least 350 snaps this season (per Pro Football Focus) and have yet to be flagged:
Defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich — 584 defensive snaps — This is nothing new for Ninkovich, as he played 1,256 snaps last season (per PFF) and was only penalized once. In all, he has two penalties since the start of the 2012 season. PFF has him as one of two 3-4 outside linebackers in the league with at least 500 snaps and no penalties — Oakland rookie Khalil Mack is the other.
Safety Devin McCourty — 581 defensive snaps — Like Ninkovich, this is hardly a shocker, as he’s almost always at or near the top of the list in most snaps and fewest penalties. McCourty has taken just one penalty since the start of the 2013 season. (Per PFF, McCourty is one of nine safeties with at least 580 snaps who has yet to draw a penalty this season.)
Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork — 485 defensive snaps — The veteran defensive lineman had an abbreviated 2013 season because of an Achilles’ injury, but he’s on an impressive streak of 13 straight regular-season games (dating back to last season) without a penalty. That represents a seismic turnaround for the big man, who led the team with six penalties in 2012.
Running back Shane Vereen — 357 offensive snaps — The only Patriots offensive player who has at least 350 snaps who has yet to be hit with a penalty, Vereen leads a group of running backs who have yet to be flagged for a penalty this season. Remarkably, Vereen has not been flagged for a single penalty in his NFL career.
|Julian Edelman on MFB: ‘Guys were dialed in’ leading up to Patriots-Broncos showdown||11.03.14 at 12:48 pm ET|
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman and running back Shane Vereen checked in with Middays with MFB on Monday to dissect Sunday’s 43-21 rout of the Broncos. To hear the interviews, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Patriots, who started the season slowly, surprisingly coasted to a big win in the day’s marquee matchup. Edelman said the seeds were planted earlier in the week.
“It started with a great week of practice,” Edelman said. “We had a really good week of practice. Guys were, they were tuned in, they were focused. We had great meetings, great walk-throughs. You could just see guys were dialed in. It showed on Sunday. That’s what it all starts with. It starts with practice. We emphasize fundamentals — blocking, tackling, catching, all those sorts of things — throughout the week. It translated into executing in the game.”
Edelman had nine receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown, along with an 84-yard punt return for a TD within a four-minute span in the second quarter to turn the game in the Patriots’ favor. However, even with the Patriots taking a 20-point lead at halftime, Edelman said the team did not get too comfortable.
“Not necessarily. They had the lead on us the year before, so it was just reversed,” Edelman said. “They have an explosive offense. They’ve got good players everywhere on that team. We went in and we kind of forgot about the score and just tried to put the helmets on and go out and do work. That’s how we did it.”
Vereen, who rushed 11 times for 29 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 38 yards and another score, compared Denver’s struggles to what happened to New England in Week 4.
“I think it was a little bit of a snowball effect in Denver’s case. Something that happened to us in Kansas City,” he said. “When you’re playing tough teams on the road, that can happen sometimes. But you’ve still got to take your hat off to Denver. They’re still a very good team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them again down the road.”
“The guy is a stud,” Edelman said. “When he made that catch I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ He doesn’t have hands, he has like oven mitts. The ball is like a beer can in his hand, that’s how big his hands are. You see him make those plays in practice and you see him do it in a game, it’s like he’s ‘Real Deal’ [Evander] Holyfield over there.”
The game was played in very cold, windy conditions on a day when it snowed in the morning.
“We knew that the weather was going to play a factor into the game at some point, in certain situations,” Vereen said. “Coach had talked to us about that prior to the game. So we knew that that could have been a factor, we knew that certain things, going into the wind there’d be a chance for some fourth-down situations because of the kicking as far as the distances which Steve [Gostkowski] could kick it from. We knew that factor going into the game, but I don’t think it was ever too big of a problem to where we had to completely change our whole game plan or change our approach. I still think we were able to complete some passes and move the ball successfully.”
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
|Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits||10.31.14 at 10:56 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. The bye weeks are here with a vengeance and I’m ready to help. I’ve got a bunch of recommendations for you, and I’ve also posted my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn, just in case you are looking for information on players not listed in this space.
Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon every Sunday.
If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Cowboys
He’s locked in now. The nerve in his shoulder is working and so is the Arizona offense. While the Cardinals receivers are a bit frustrating because the ball is to be spread around to the open man, Palmer is the guy doing the spreading, and it’s working just fine for his fantasy owners. He’s a solid play this week in Dallas.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Ravens
He’s going to slow down off of last week’s pace by a significant percentage. Of course, even a 50 percent reduction leaves you with tasty fantasy production. That’s how hot Big Ben is. His home matchup with the Ravens is nothing to fear. In fact, they are a better matchup than normal because they will be without their top corner, Jimmy Smith.
Is he a lock? No. The Giants offensive line has been hard to figure — at times looking good and at times looking collectively lost. This week — with New York coming off its bye, I expect solid play from that group. I also expect the offense to be forced into an aggressive mindset. That’s because I expect Andrew Luck to put a lot of points on the board. Manning can help you in any league this week if you need an option and you can accept a little volatility. I think he’s worth the risk.