Found August 23, 2012 on Boston Sports Then & Now:

Second year Running Backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are expected to lead the rushing attack for the New England Patriots in 2012

In the current landscape of the National Football League, the concept of having a featured running back who is counted on for 25 to 30 carries a game has become a reality of the past.  Given the implementation of unique offensive formations and the fragile state of an average player in today’s NFL, many teams across the league are installing a two running back system.  For the Patriots, the running back by committee tactic has been in place since the glory days of Corey Dillon and Antowain Smith.

As we are half way through the 2012 Preseason, the Patriots are holding true to this league-wide trend.  Head Coach Bill Belichick made it clear that the team would take the running back by committee approach in 2012 when they opted not to re-sign the rock solid BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  With the departure of Green-Ellis to the Cincinnati Bengals, the fate of the Patriots ground game now lies in the hands of two second year running backs, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.  While Ridley and Vereen are expected to handle most of the early down work, fan favorite Danny Woodhead is the third head of the team’s unproven rushing attack.  Despite having the most experience of the trio, Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, will utilize Woodhead mainly on third down due to his pass catching ability and lack of power as a straight ahead rusher.

Despite the lack of experience amongst the Patriots running backs, there is undoubtably some untapped potential in both Ridley and Vereen.  Ridley, who was a starter at college football powerhouse LSU, saw action in 14 games last season, more so towards the end of the regular season.  In weeks 15 through 17, Ridley rushed for a combined 210 yards, averaging more than 5 yards per carry.  Despite the small sample size, Ridley showed some promise during his limited reps at running back.  At 5 yards a carry, Ridley would find playing time in any NFL backfield.  This level of production towards the end of the 2011 season provided Belichick with enough ammo to part ways with Green-Ellis come the offseason.

With Ridley shaping up to be option A for Bill Belichick’s rushing attack, option B (Shane Vereen), is not far behind in the race for carries.  As a second year player out of Cal, Vereen saw limited action during his rookie campaign as he was restricted for a majority of the season by a sore hamstring.  While only appearing in 5 games last season, it’s his colleagiate production that has Patriots coaches salivating.  During his 3 years at Cal, Vereen posted outstanding numbers rushing for 29 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards.  With Ridley tied to the sidelines due to a banged up knee, Vereen was given the opportunity to receive a majority of the carries this past Monday night against the Eagles.  While rushing for only 20 yards on 10 carries, Vereen flaunted his ability to make plays out of the backfield as he recorded 4 catches on the night.

Expectations going into the regular season are that Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will take on a large chunk of the ground work.  While Ridley and Vereen will battle for carries on first and second down, it is anticipated that Belichick will involve the more proven Danny Woodhead on passing downs and in special offensive packages, similarly to how he has been used the previous two seasons.  After Ridley, Vereen, and Woodhead, the remainder of the Patriots backfield will likely remain irrelevant barring any injuries.  Undrafted rookie, Brandon Bolden, is still fighting for a roster spot and only hurt his chances against the Eagles by muffing a punt in the 2nd quarter.  On a side note, the Patriots also recently signed Olympic silver medalist and former University of Florida star, Jeff Demps.  Despite putting up good rushing numbers at Florida, Demps will primarly be used as a return man on special teams, especially given his time away from football to particpate in the Olympics as a sprinter.

For now, Patriots fans should expect the rotation of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Danny Woodhead in the backfield.  While the team will start the season with a running back by committee approach, Patriots coaches and fans alike will be closely monitoring the situation, looking for any signs of a breakout from most specifically Ridley or Vereen.  With Ridley, Vereen, and Woodhead all serving as viable options for the Patriots ground game, the team will still be seen and defended as a pass first offense under the leadership of Tom Brady.  With the bar set low for these young running backs, the opportunity is available for one these guys to surprise the rest of the league and put forth a productive season.


THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES
SCWHING!

Sapp: Belichick wanted to draft me

Warren Sapp recently relayed a story about how he claims then-Browns coach Bill Belichick informed him that the coach wanted to draft him so badly that Belichick had an erection.

New England Patriots: Predicting Offensive Starters

After the Patriots' second preseason game, here is a look at what the Patriots' starting lineup and depth chart on offense might look like.Quarterback: Tom BradyAnalysis: Easiest position to assess. Brady is the clear-cut starter on this team.The real question for New England is who is the backup?One would think that Brian Hoyer would get the nod as the No. 2 option on the...

Report: Patriots May Go After Jonathan Fanene's Bonus for 'Failure to Disclose Physical Condition'

The Patriots' release of Jonathan Fanene on Tuesday afternoon may have raised some eyebrows. Not necesarrily because of the fact that the Patriots released a veteran -- they've been known to do that in the past -- but because just five months earlier, they handed him a near-$4 million signing bonus. We're starting to learn more about that, though, and it sounds like New...

New England Patriots extend DT Kyle Love

The Patriots essentially bought out Kyle Love’s exclusive rights year and restricted free agency year by giving him this 2 year, 3.09 million dollar deal. Love, a 2010 undrafted free agent, was set to make $540,000 this season and somewhere between 1-2 million in 2013 under a restricted free agent tender, so the Patriots are probably giving him more money than he ordinarily would...

"The New England Patriots are an absolute juggernaut. Granted, the team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since..."

“The New England Patriots are an absolute juggernaut. Granted, the team hasn’t won a Super...

Patriots Sign Love to Extension

New England Patriots defensive lineman Kyle Love, a restricted rights free agent this past offseason, got a one year contract extension and is now with the team though the 2013 season. Earlier this spring Love signed his RFA tender and there was word all along the team was looking at giving him a two year deal with a signing bonus that would keep him away from unrestricted free...

Patriots vs Buccaneers: What New England Fans Should Watch for in Preseason Wk 3 | Bleacher Report

Patriots vs Buccaneers: What New England Fans Should Watch for in Preseason Wk 3 | Bleacher Report:...

"Brady said ultimately it will be up to coach Bill Belichick (assuming he sticks around) to decide..."

“Brady said ultimately it will be up to coach Bill Belichick (assuming he sticks around) to...

Very curious if we’re going to get a look at Jeff Demps...

Very curious if we’re going to get a look at Jeff Demps tomorrow. Here’s a first glimpse of him… (via Patriots joint practice with the Buccaneers - Thursday, August 23, 2012)

Will the patriots ever find a way to beat the Giants?

Well I certainly hope we get another shot at them in a Super Bowl but the odds of that are high. The...

Patriots cut Fanene with failure to disclose physical condition designation

Hot News for DE Jonathan Fanene

Warren Sapp Says Bill Belichick Had an “Erection” For Him

If the point of a book tour is to gather as much media attention as possible, Warren Sapp is succeeding at that. He might be looking crazy while doing it, but any press is good press I suppose. Besides not letting go that his Twitter source was wrong about Jeremy Shockey being the Saints Bounty [...] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

Clinton Portis Admits He Wanted to Play Behind Tom Brady With Patriots

Running back Clinton Portis worked out with the Patriots last August, and nothing came of it. New England had plenty of depth at the position, and as is customary in preseason, it was likely nothing more than due diligence. However, Portis certainly wishes something could have come from it. After being injury problems led to his release prior to the lockout, 30-year-old wasn'...

Buddy Nix on Patriots: “They don’t scare me”

Today, Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix told the Toronto Sun that his team his not intimidated by the New England Patriots (Credit: AP Photo) It is not quite the same level as a Jets level declaration, but Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix had a proclamation to make about the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots. According to Nix, his team is not intimidated...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.