Of the seven running backs on the current Patriots roster, only three were on the team last season. It’s fairly safe to say that all three of those backs will probably be back on the team in 2013, barring an exceptional training camp and preseason from the other backs.
In the interest of saving us from offseason boredom (and Aaron Hernandez-related nonsense), as we wait a month for training camp to begin, we may as well take a look at some statistical comparison between the three backs returning from last year’s squad, (looking at the new additions would yield an inaccurate comparison), so let’s get to it.
Considering that Stevan Ridley had far more carries than any other Patriots rusher, I adjusted their statistics so that it would be as though each back received 100 carries last season.
To start off with, we’ll take a look at something the Patriots pride themselves on, and that’s the ability to get first downs. Stevan Ridley had 82 first downs, while Brandon Bolden had 18, and Vereen had 15. After adjusting the numbers, we see that Bolden was actually more effective than the other two at getting first downs, posting 32 first downs per 100 carries, while Ridley had just above 28, and Vereen posted slightly over 24 first downs per 100 carries.
Next up is big play ability, and we’ll measure that with rushes of over 20 yards down the field. After adjustment, we see that Ridley had 2.1 carries of over 20 yards per 100 touches. Vereen had none at all (though I’m sure that handing Vereen the ball 100 times would yield a very different result), and Bolden comes out on top yet again, with 7 carries of 20+ yards. 2-0 Bolden.
Now it’s time that we hit the two most commonly looked at, and most important, statistics – total yardage, and the total number of touchdowns.
Ridley had 1,314 yards last season, while Bolden had 285, and Vereen had 400 flat (those numbers are including receiving yards). When you adjust these numbers so that each of these backs had an equal number of carries, Ridley gets 443 yards per 100 touches (including receptions), while Bolden put up 491 yards per 100 times touching the rock. Shane Vereen managed to take this category by a mile, posting 571 yards per 100 times he touched the ball, which is likely due to Vereen’s superior receiving ability.
Lastly, we’ll look at the ultimate statistic, which is, of course, touchdowns. Ridley led the team in touchdowns by any player not named Tom Brady with 12 scores, but he also had more touches than anyone else – and by quite a large margin.
When we even up the playing field, Ridley has about 4 touchdowns per 100 touches. Brandon Bolden only managed to muster a little under 3.5 scores per touch, and Vereen crossed the white line into the holy land an incredible 5.7 times per 100 carries.
To look at a fair comparison of those numbers from Vereen, Arian Foster, who led the league in TDs last season and was sixth in yards, averaged 373 yards per touch, and 4.4 scores per time touching the football.
Based on this quick little comparison of the Patriots backs, we can tell that Shane Vereen was by far the most effective back on the Patriots roster at getting yards and taking it to the house, and that’s a big part of why I think he’ll be utilized more in 2013 – but that discussion’s for another article at later date.