In April of 2011 the New England Patriots drafted shifty running back Shane Vereen with the 56th pick overall in the second round of the NFL draft. Instantly compared to Patriots long time running back Kevin Faulk, Patriots fans were expecting immediate contributions from Vereen who entered the draft out of the University of California. But Vereen didn’t make the impact fans nor the Patriots organization was expecting and found himself on and off the inactive list his first two years, most of the time, even when Vereen was active he was fourth on the depth chart. Vereen talked about his frustrations in an article published in the Boston Globe on Saturday.
“Last year, it was kind of devastating and heartbreaking not to be out there with the team in a big game” said Vereen as he referred back to his rookie season in 2011.
But in last Sunday’s AFC divisional round game against the Houston Texans, Vereen got his call as running back Danny Woodhead went out early in the first quarter with a thumb injury and the team lost tight end Rob Gronkowski in the first series of plays. The team had to change their game plan and that’s when Shane Vereen stepped up.
“You never know what players could have to come in and be called on and have to contribute,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick who has instilled in his team a next man up philosophy that has each member of the 53-man roster ready to contribute at any moment.
In Vereen’s first playoff appearance last week he needed 124 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns including a beautiful touchdown reception that basically put the game away for the Patriots. It was a breakout performance and a performance the team can use again as it prepares to take on the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday’s AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium.
Vereen definitely has the talent to be a factor so the question is not can he, but will he answer the call again?
If he comes anywhere close to replicating last week’s performance, it will be a difficult day for a Ravens’ aging linebacking core.