New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen is poised for a break out season in 2014. His ability to catch the football out the backfield and contribute on the ground makes him one of the top duel-threat backs in the NFL. His season was interrupted due to injury a year ago, but the Patriots will endure great success if Vereen’s performance Friday night is any sort of indication of what awaits.
Based on what the Patriots offense exhibited in their 30-7 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers, Vereen figures to be one of the unit’s centerpieces moving forward. Tom Brady targeted Vereen on five separate occasions in the game. He snagged all five balls and two of them for touchdowns.
He turned a short pass out in the right flat into a highlight reel worthy 40-yard dash that resulted in his first score of the game. He than danced past a slew of Carolina defenders to score on diving bid toward the pylon in the third quarter.
It’s no surprise that Vereen is one of Brady’s favorite targets. His soft hands, dynamic ability to create and make defenders miss, give the Patriots a wealth of versatility to work with.
“He’s really had such a dependable role for us for the last few years and just done a great job. When the ball is in his hands, good things are happening for our team. We’re going to try to just keep getting him the ball,” said Brady when asked about Vereen following the game.
Vereen’s dependability will go along way this season given Rob Gronkowski‘s history with injury. Outside of Vereen, Julian Edelman is really the only other offensive target Brady has shown trust in. Edelman, Vereen and Gronkowski (assuming he can remain on the field) project to get the lion’s share of the work. Second-year players Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, and newcomer Brandon LaFell, still have much to prove.
Among the Patriots running back corps, Vereen is the only one who has emerged as a bonafide player. Sure, Stevan Ridley will demand the bulk of the carries, but he’s had his fumbling issues. Rookie James White has received mixed reviews in recent weeks based on his dull performances in the preseason. With that said, expect coach Bill Belichick to look for Vereen when push comes to shove.
The fourth-year back out of Louisiana State University is characterized by tremendous consistency. Vereen caught 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns in just eight games last season. Now multiple those stats by two and that’s what Vereen is destined to accumulate barring a setback.
“Shane works hard. He’s a very dependable guy. He does a good job for us,” said Belichick of Vereen Friday night.
The 25 year old is set to become an unrestricted free agent upon season’s end. That fact alone will provide added incentive to perform well each and every week. A strong showing in 2014 and Vereen will be set for a big pay day.