|Shane Vereen, Jamie Collins active, Aaron Dobson and Alfonzo Dennard inactive for Patriots, Maurice Jones-Drew out for Raiders||09.21.14 at 11:50 am ET|
FOXBORO — Shane Vereen (shoulder) and Jamie Collins (thigh) will be part of the game plan for the Patriots but Aaron Dobson will not.
Collins returns to the lineup after sitting out last week with a thigh injury.
This marks the second time Dobson has been inactive this season (he was also inactive in Week 1 in Miami). Kenbrell Thompkins, who sat out last week in Minnesota, is active again.
Also inactive are defensive backs Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder) and Don Jones (hamstring), offensive linemen Josh Kline and Ryan Wendell(knee) and running back James White and defensive lineman Zach Moore. Michael Buchanan, who injured his ankle in the preseason finale against the Giants, is active for the first time this season.
For the Raiders, running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been scratched. Jones-Drew has carried the ball just nine times for 11 yards in two games. One of those carries gained 12 yards, meaning his other eight carries have netted minus-1 yard. The Raiders are next-to-last in rushing in the NFL after two games, averaging just 63 yards. The Raiders offense has been anemic overall, averaging just 261 yards overall in two losses.
Also inactive for the Raiders are QB Matt Schaub, CB Chimdi Chekwa, LB Sio Moore, LB Nick Roach, G Tony Bergstrom and OT Matt McCants.
FOXBORO — Shane Vereen knows all the stats. He knows the Raiders enter the game dead last in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up exactly 200 yards per game on the ground. Last week, Houston’s Arian Foster had 138 yards on 28 carries.
So this figures to be a day when the Patriots turn to he and Stevan Ridley to gash the Raiders defense left, right and up the middle.
But Vereen still thinks the Oakland front seven can be a formidable opponent, populated with lots of veterans like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Pat Sims and young talent like strong side linebacker Khalil Mack.
“Absolutely, every Sunday we expect our opponents’ best and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Oakland,” Vereen said. “I’ve seen a lot of the same. They’re very aggressive. They’re a very veteran group. They’ve played a lot of football. They know what they’re doing. It’s not like a young team so we’re going have to really play well and execute.
“Each D-line is different and each game plan is different. I would say with any aggressive D-line, patience is key. They’re going to make plays on their side of the ball so you just have to take the positives with the negatives, take what they give you.”
It may not be what the Raiders give Vereen on Sunday that matters. It may be getting the Patriots to give him the ball more. But Vereen maintains sharing running responsibilities with Stevan Ridley comes with the job. Last week, Vereen had 11 of the team’s 16 rushes in the first half before Ridley exploded in the second half for 23 carries and 87 of his 101 yards on the day.
|Shane Vereen, Jamie Collins among 6 listed as questionable for Sunday vs. Raiders||09.19.14 at 5:16 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Shane Vereen (shoulder) and Jamie Collins (thigh) were among six Patriots players listed as questionable Friday on the final injury report before the home opener against the Raiders Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Ryan Wendell and Alfonzo Dennard were also listed as questionable. Dennard, Wendell and Collins all missed last Sunday’s game in Minnesota, with Dennard being added to the injury report officially this week.
A total of 10 Patriots were again listed as limited at sweats and shells practice on Friday as the Patriots had perfect attendance for a second straight day. Dan Connolly, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Sealver Siliga were also limited but all are designated as “probable” to play.
For the Raiders, linebacker Sio Moore (ankle) did not practice all week and has been ruled out for Sunday in Foxboro. Receiver Rod Streater (hip) practiced Friday for the first time this week and is questionable. Streater is one of seven Raiders listed as questionable, joining running back Maurice Jones-Drew (hand) and corner Carlos Rogers (knee). Defensive lineman Justin Tuck (illness) was at full strength Friday and is probable.
Here’s the complete report:
S Don Jones (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE
DE Michael Buchanan (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
RB Shane Vereen (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
OL Ryan Wendell (knee) QUESTIONABLE
LB Jamie Collins (thigh) QUESTIONABLE
CB Alfonzo Dennard (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
OL Dan Connolly (knee) PROBABLE
WR Julian Edelman (back) PROBABLE
TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) PROBABLE
DT Sealver Siliga (hand) PROBABLE
|Stevan Ridley sees ‘drastic’ improvement in Patriots rushing attack||09.17.14 at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Sometimes one week can make all the difference in the world.
In Week 1 against the Dolphins the Patriots ran for just 89 yards, only 28 of them coming in the second half as they ran just seven running plays the final 30 minutes of the game. Week 2 against the Vikings was a different story as the team ran for 150 total yards, 96 of them coming in the second half.
Stevan Ridley led the way, rushing for 101 yards on 21 carries.
“We’ve improved each week. I think Miami to Minnesota, I think [the offense and offensive line] made a drastic improvement,” Ridley said. “We all keep leaning on each other and relying on each other. I think we’re going to be OK towards the end of the year.”
On a personal level, the key for Ridley was staying patient as he only rushed for 29 yards in the first half, but was able to pick it up in the second half against a tired and demoralized Minnesota defense.
“Every back goes out there and wants to take it the distance, but there are going to be times that it’s going to be just two yards, three yards and you just have to keep plugging,” said Ridley. “You have stay disciplined as a runner and keep your legs moving and falling forward. That’s what you have to do to get the tough yardage, eventually they are going to break and you’ll get some big runs.”
Overall, the Patriots rank 16th in the NFL in rushing, this after being ranked 21st following Week 1. Like Ridley said, the Patriots are focused on getting better each week, wanting to reach its peak once December and the end of the season hits.
Ridley isn’t the only back who has seen time as Shane Vereen has been a force both in the running game and catching passes out of the backfield. Vereen has 76 yards on 13 carries and has caught six passes for 35 yards. Running the ball effectively and with consistency goes a long way in the Patriots offense as the team is 38-1 when a player runs for 100 yards or more under Bill Belichick.
“It’s only Week 3. The first week we struggled and the second week we got it going. There’s a lot of football left to be played, so I don’t want to jump in front of myself. From week-to-week I see improvement and that’s all we can ask for, especially with the group of guys that we have up there. There are some new faces – I think we all know that – but, like I said we’re just going in week in and week out showing what we can do,” Ridley said. “Eventually, these upcoming weeks, hopefully we will have a balanced attack going into every game and that’s what makes us hard [to stop]. The key word is hard work around here and that’s what we do.”
|Shane Vereen on having balanced offense: ‘You have to execute in all areas’||09.11.14 at 7:00 am ET|
FOXBORO — The key to any NFL offense is being balanced.
In the Patriots’ 33-20 loss to the Dolphins, in which they were outscored 23-0 in the second half, the offense was anything but balanced.
Entering the fourth quarter, trailing just 23-20, the offense ran just three designed running plays. This after rushing for 61 yards in the first half and then running seven total rushing plays in the second half.
“You have to have execution in the run game, the pass game, the screen game, play action — everything needs to execute well,” running back Shane Vereen said. “If not, then you become unbalanced and start getting away from one thing that’s maybe not working, as well and going to things that work, but you just have to execute in all areas.”
Vereen had a productive first game of the season as he finished with seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown to lead the team and then caught five passes out of the backfield for 35 yards.
Some pointed to the number of different players seeing time on the offensive line and a few playing multiple positions as a possible reason why the offense and particularly the offensive line struggled — but Vereen was quick to shut that point down.
“It adds another level of complexity to the offense, but we’ve all been doing this since spring,” he said. “Personnel groups are nothing to do us or this offense. That’s no excuse for anything that’s going on right now.”
For the first time since 2003, the Patriots lost their season-opener, but the team is not even thinking about that. The Pats already have put Sunday’s loss behind them and are focused on the Vikings and the remainder of the season.
“We have a lot of football left,” said Vereen. “It’s just one week and you can never dwell on one week, especially the first week. We still have 15 games left to go and that’s what our focus is on now.”
On Sunday the Patriots will be looking to avoid going 0-2 for the first time since 2001, and Bill Belichick has only lost back-to-back road games twice in his career in New England. That streak is largely due in part to the team’s preparation leading up to each game and the ability to put the past in the past.
“You have to get to work,” Vereen said. “You have to practice hard this week, have a good game plan, go in there and execute on Sunday.”
|Tom Brady on his regular-season dress rehearsal: ‘I think we can be a lot better’||08.23.14 at 12:46 am ET|
There’s no disputing that 17-for-21 for 204 yards, two touchdowns and a 138.9 quarterback rating are numbers most NFL quarterbacks would take in their final regular season tune-up. But, of course, Tom Brady is not most quarterbacks.
He knows that the rhythm wasn’t there to begin the game, as a miscommunication with his wide receivers on third down and a stumble and near fumble on the second series would indicate. He didn’t appear to have his timing on the first two series, both ending in punts. Then Ryan Mallett came in on the third series to get some work in with the starters.
Brady tripped over someone’s foot and fell awkwardly to the turf, handing off to Shane Vereen in the nick of time, but not before a defensive lineman came barreling over him to get to Vereen.
“I couldn’t tell because I had my back turned, but I think someone just got my foot,” Brady said. “I don’t know if it was a defensive lineman or offensive lineman, but, yeah, you never want that to happen. That, against a good team like this, usually ends drives, and that one certainly did this time.”
Brady certainly recovered. On the next series after Mallett came out of the game, Brady led the Patriots down the field, going completing all four pass attempts, including a 40-yarder to a wide-open Vereen in the right flat on the Vereen staple — the wheel route — for a touchdown.
“Yeah, it was a slow start all the way around, but it was good to make some plays there late in the second quarter and then the third quarter,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of work to do, but it was fun being out there. It’s great to win, especially this game. They’re a good football team and if you don’t execute well, they’re going to be really tough. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys [from] playing them last year. They’ve got a great team.”
Even on the 60-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski before the half, Brady and Bill Belichick thought that maybe with some slightly better clock management, they could’ve made things easier on themselves and their kicker. Still, for the starters to put 20 points up on the board against one of the better defenses in football provides some confidence going into the season.
“Yeah, it wasn’t bad, but there are a lot of things that we left out there,” Brady said. “We got bailed out there a few times on a few defensive calls. Missed some blitz stuff, missed some throws. I think we can be a lot better. It’s an important week for us to try to get better. The days are winding down until all these games count. It gets pretty exciting here in a few weeks, but you’ve still got to try to use these days to make as many improvements as we can. This game was good because you can really see where you’re at and you can see the things you need to get better. I think there’s a lot of things we can improve on.”
If Vereen stays healthy, he could put up some giant numbers this season — similar to dynamic running back Darren Sproles, now of the Eagles.
The 2011 second-round pick out of Cal has certainly showed some flashes of stardom, but he’s yet to play a full season — playing in five, 13 and eight games respectively in his first three seasons in the league.
A 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, the running back’s strength is catching passes out of the backfield – something he displayed Friday night, catching two touchdown passes in the Patriots’ 30-7 win over the Panthers.
“I was just glad the offensive was able to string together a couple drives — string together some plays,” said Vereen. “We kind of hurt ourselves a little bit, we still have a lot to work on, but it was good to get out there and develop some kind of rhythm.”
On the first touchdown Vereen was able to showcase his speed, as after catching a short pass from Tom Brady out of the backfield, the running back took off up the right side bursting past members of the Panthers secondary for 40 yards and the first touchdown of the game.
“I was hoping — running that fast I definitely didn’t want to get caught — I would hear it from everyone here in the locker room [if I did],” Vereen said.
His second touchdown came in the third quarter — also from Brady — a 6-yard quick out route from the backfield as he outstretched the ball just inside the pylon. At first it was ruled he was out of bounds inside the 1-yard line, but Bill Belichick challenged the play and it was overturned for his second touchdown of the game.
“I couldn’t tell if I stepped out of bounce or not, but I tried like hell to get in there,” Vereen said.
Vereen finished the game with 75 all-purpose yards — five catches for 57 yards and six rushes for 18 yards.
Plagued by injuries, last season was cut short when he broke his wrist in the first game of the season in Buffalo. He did return later in the season, but only played in eight total games — rushing for 208 yards and a touchdown, while catching 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. His rookie campaign was also shortened to five games due to a nagging hamstring injury.
Going off his numbers last season — if converted to a full 16-game season — Vereen would have finished with 416 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while catching 94 balls for 854 yards and six touchdowns. Added up he would’ve had a 1,248 all-purpose yard season with eight total touchdowns.
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