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Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah on Shane Vereen: ‘Oh man, he’s nasty’ 02.20.15 at 1:11 pm ET
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Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah raved about Shane Vereen at the NFL combine this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

With the Patriots potentially losing two running backs via free agency in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, the team could be in the market for a running back in the draft.

One of those backs could be Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. He ran for over 1,000 yards in his final three seasons at Nebraska, including 1,611 yards on 264 carries in his senior year. He also can catch passes out of the backfield if needed, as he finished his career at Nebraska with 73 receptions.

If the Patriots were to select Abdullah (would seemingly have to be with one of their top picks as he is projected to go in Rounds 2 or 3), he would be replacing Vereen — someone who Abdullah thinks is very talented.

“Oh man, he’€™s nasty. He’€™s nasty,” he told reporters at the NFL combine. “I watch a lot of his film to help myself out on route running. He runs the best option route, I feel like, in the NFL right now. He does a good job of stemming the linebackers, snapping them off, using his head to get some separation. Outstanding hands. A guy who’€™s going to be in the league a long time if he continues to do that.”€

As for a potential role in the NFL, Abdullah said he would do whatever is asked of him.

“I never like to put myself just in a role,” he said. “I like to be a guy who can play first down, second down, third down, but if a team drafts me and says, hey, this year, this is what we need you to do, yes sir, I’€™ll do that.”€

The one issue Abdullah has is fumbling. The 5-foot-9, 195-pounder fumbled 24 times and lost 17 of them during his four years as a Cornhusker, something that would not go over well in New England with how much Bill Belichick values ball security.

He sees this as easily correctable.

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Read More: 2015 NFL combine, Ameer Abdullah, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley
Free Agent Snapshot: Roy Helu at 12:22 pm ET
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Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Roy Helu will be a free agent for the first time of his career. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they’€™€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller,  Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Rahim Moore, Charles Clay, Jerry Hughes, Pernell McPhee, Orlando Franklin and Dane Fletcher. Today we’ll feature Roy Helu.

Roy Helu
Position: Running back
Age: 26 (Dec. 7, 1988)
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 215 pounds

The skinny: The running back has spent his first four seasons in the league with the Redskins, but a change of scenery might do Helu a world of good. After his rookie season where he ran for 640 yards on 151 carries, and also caught 49 passes for 379 yards, he hasn’t done much in his last three years partly because he’s shared duties with Alfred Morris. In 2012 he only played in three games because of Achilles and turf toe injuries. Although he was placed on season-ending injured reserve, he did bounce back in his last two seasons to not let the injuries affect his durability. He played in 16 and 14 games the last two seasons respectively — although he wasn’t as productive as in his rookie season.

Over the past two seasons Helu has totaled 490 yards rushing and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 73 passes for 728 yards and two touchdowns. Helu’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield, something not many running backs can do. Helu has also played on special teams throughout his career, adding to his potential value.

By the numbers: 11.4 – Average yards per catch for Helu in 2014, a very impressive number for a running back.

Why it would work: With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to become free agents, the Patriots could potentially be in need of a running back, especially a veteran as they have LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, James White and Tyler Gaffney already on their roster, but besides Blount all will be entering either their first or second year in the league. Coach Bill Belichick always seems to find a veteran at each position at a low cost to bring in during training camp and see how things work out. With the three running backs currently on the roster all very young in age, bringing in a veteran as opposed to filling the need through the draft might be the better route to go. Also, with Helu’s experience on special teams and how much Belichick values that, it’s just another reason he could be appealing to the Patriots.

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Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Shane Vereen
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Running back 02.10.15 at 9:00 am ET
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Shane Vereen led the Patriots in offensive touches for the 2014 regular season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Shane Vereen led the Patriots in offensive touches for the 2014 regular season. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kicked off the series with a look at the special teams and wide receivers. Now, it’s the running backs.

Depth chart: Shane Vereen (96 carries, 391 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 52 catches, 447 receiving yards, 3 TDs), Stevan Ridley (94 carries, 340 yards, 2 TDs), Jonas Gray (89 carries, 412 yards, 5 TDs), LeGarrette Blount (60 carries, 281 yards, 3 TDs), Brandon Bolden (28 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD), James White (9 carries, 38 yards), James Develin (3 carries, 5 yards)

Overview: The only thing constant is change, and that has pretty much been the case with the New England ground game over the last decade. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are big believers in the plug and play system, and while there are occasional misfires (like spending a first-round pick on Laurence Maroney in 2006), there are few high-level teams who get so much out of so many different backs. There’s a reason why Belichick has never had a single back go for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons while working as a head coach, dating all the way back to Cleveland.

In 2014, the Patriots became the first Super Bowl winner since the 1987 Redskins to have four different running backs finish with 40 carries or more in their championship season. Part of that was due to injury (Ridley would have likely been the lead back for the bulk of the season if he hadn’t gone with a season-ending knee injury in October) and part of it was personnel (Gray pretty much fell off the face of the earth after his alarm clock failed to go off and he overslept less than a week after landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated). But they were able to exhaust a number of different options in their pursuit of a steady and consistent ground attack.

Overall, the Patriots ran the ball just enough to keep opposing defenses honest (107.9 yards per game, 18th in the league) and keep the thought of play-action in the back of the minds of opposing defenses. That includes Vereen, an elite third-down option who was one of five running backs to finish the season with at least 50 catches and 50 carries, as well as Blount, who returned midway through the season after torches each of the bridges on the way out of Pittsburgh to average 4.4 yards per carry and six touchdowns down the stretch and into the postseason for New England.

Going forward, there will inevitably be more change — both Ridley and Vereen are set to hit the market as free agents. But even if one or both leave, the Patriots figure to utilize the old plug-and-play approach, as Blount, Bolden, Gray and White are all already under contract for 2015. In addition, Develin is an exclusive rights free agent, which means he’ll be back as well. And Tyler Gaffney, who was claimed off waivers last summer by the Patriots, spent the entire year on the shelf because of a knee injury — he rushed for an astounding 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior at Stanford in 2013. In the end, it should make for an interesting offseason in New England.

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Read More: Brandon Bolden, James Develin, James White, Jonas Gray
Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount talk about finish of Super Bowl XLIX 02.09.15 at 9:49 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen both talked with NFL Network on Monday. (Else/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen both talked with NFL Network on Monday. (Else/Getty Images)

Patriots running backs Shane Vereen and LeGarrette Blount were both on NFL Network on Monday. Vereen was a part of “NFL AM,” while he and Blount appeared together later in the day on “Total Access.” Here are a few highlights of their respective conversations.

On if the Patriots win the Super Bowl if Marshawn Lynch gets the ball at the end of the game:

Marshawn Lynch gets the ball, we’re going to need a great play by our D-line and by our linebackers [laughing]. … I think it’s a different game. I think it’s a different ending. When I was on the sideline and I saw where they had the ball and the situation, we’re trying to get some plays together for the offense to try and get down and we’re going to need at least a field goal to tie the thing up. So my focus was mainly more on that because I definitely thought they were going to hand it to him and he was going to punch it in.”

On the Patriots’ potential to repeat:

“We have a young team. We have a lot of guys that have come together that have very cohesive bonds within the locker room. We’re very, very close. Honestly, I think the sky is the limit for this group of guys. We have a great leader in Tom [Brady], Hall of Fame coach and quarterback. You can’t really go wrong. That’s a great place to start and we have guys that are in leadership spots that should be there. We have great leaders, we have a great thing going. I love playing there, I really do.”

On how he would have felt if his team decided to throw the ball on the 1-yard line instead of giving it to him:

LeGarrette Blount: “Me personally, I don’t know if I would have given Josh [McDaniels] a chance to come up with that. If we were in that situation, I would have talked to Josh and Bill [Belichick] and would have been like, ‘You have to give me the ball here. Give me a chance.’ As a running back — as a big running back like Marshawn [Lynch] — you have to know for a fact that nobody is going to stop you from getting in that close to the goal line.”

On Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler’s interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX:

Shane Vereen: “It’s great to see but he’s been making plays in practice all season long. I was talking to [Tom] Brady after the game and he was like it’s nice to have Malcolm pick somebody else off instead of him for a change. But he’s been doing well all season long, progressed well and obviously he deserved to be in the game. Thank God he was.”

For video of Vereen’s appearance on “NFL AM,” click here. For their appearance together on “Total Access,” click here.

For more Patriots news, check out

Read More: LeGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen,
Julian Edelman was Tom Brady’s top target in 2014 postseason, but Shane Vereen was amazingly dependable 02.05.15 at 8:00 am ET
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Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback –€” it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer might have in his pass catcher. Here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the Patriots for the 2014 postseason (by way of comparison, here’€™s a look at the target breakdown for the 2014 regular season):

WR Julian Edelman: 26 catches on 37 targets (70 percent)
RB Shane Vereen: 18 catches on 21 targets (86 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 16 catches on 31 targets (52 percent)
WR Brandon LaFell: 13 catches on 20 targets (65 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 11 catches on 16 targets (69 percent)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 6 catches on 6 targets (100 percent)
FB James Develin: 2 catches on 2 targets (100 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)
LT/TE Nate Solder: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, targets
Shane Vereen: ‘The message has been sent; we’re Super Bowl champs’ 02.02.15 at 1:50 am ET
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Shane Vereen celebrates the win. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Shane Vereen celebrates the win. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Down by three points, 6:52 remaining in the game, the ball on their own 36-yard line.

Tom Brady went to work, going 8-for-8 with 65 yards, leading the team down the field and into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown — a 3-yard connection with Julian Edelman, but a major factor on the drive was running back Shane Vereen.

The dependable third-down back caught three passes for 14 yards on the drive, capping off a very good Super Bowl for the Cal product.

“I just thought back to OTAs, thought back to mini-camp, thought back to training camp, thought back to the countless weeks where were were put in that situation in practice,” Vereen said. “We’ve been there, we’ve executed and we’ve done it and came through when we needed it most.”

“It’s a great day to be a Patriot, I can tell you that much,” he added. “You have to tip your hat, that’s a very good defense we played. They played — they battled us for four quarters. You have to tip your hat to them.”

Vereen finished the game with 11 catches (two shy of a Super Bowl record) for 64 yards. By our count he played 45 of the 72 offensive snaps, and was a major part in the offense in the second half when the Patriots trailed and threw the ball seemingly on every play.

“We’ve been working together for the last four years now,” said Vereen. “It really was nothing new to us. [Brady] found me when he needed me. I was able to get open. Great chemistry.”

Even trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Vereen said he and the team had no doubt they were winning the game.

“No, not at all. We knew that they were going to get theirs. We knew that they were going to stop us at some point. We knew that we were going to have to dig deep and continue to make plays. It wasn’t going to be easy, that’s one of the best defenses, if not the best defense in the league, behind ours. We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew it was going to be a battle. We played hard.”

As for the last few weeks and everything that has gone on surrounding the Patriots, Vereen made it loud and clear.

“The message has been sent. We’re Super Bowl champs. You can’t take that away from us. Nothing else needs to be said,” he said.

Read More: 2015 NFL playoffs, Shane Vereen, Super Bowl XLIX, Tom Brady
Shane Vereen beats Richard Sherman in Madden 15 showdown between Patriots, Seahawks 01.28.15 at 12:51 pm ET
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CHANDLER, Ariz. –€” Shane Vereen pulled off the first win of the week for the Patriots over the Seahawks on Tuesday night, as he bested Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in a New England-Seattle showdown in Madden 15.

When it comes to taking a page out of his playbook as it relates to the real thing on Sunday, however, Vereen said he won’€™t be giving Bill Belichick any advice.

“Don’€™t beat them the way I did in Madden,”€ he said with a smile on Wednesday morning. “I tried some very. very risky things. Some of them worked, some of them didn’€™t work. But it was a fun event –€” you can’€™t take anything away from it. I just think Sunday, we’€™re going to have to play our game, and we’€™re going to have to play tough.”

Vereen was asked if No. 34 got a lot of the carries against Seattle.

“No, because they didn’€™t update the roster,”€ he replied with mock anger. “I tried to force-feed myself the few times I was in, but you can only do so much.”

Read More: Richard Sherman, Shane Vereen, Super Bowl XLIX,
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