Friday night’s impressive 30-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium didn’t only showcase a dominant defensive effort by the New England Patriots; it also demonstrated how important a healthy Shane Vereen could be to Tom Brady and the passing game.
Although it was just a preseason game, the five catches for 57 yards by Vereen was an encouraging sign. When healthy, Vereen is dangerous out of the backfield but has yet to build the same type of reliability Brady once had with former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk. A rash of injuries and some dropped balls have enabled Vereen from really breaking out, but there is hope his pass-catching responsibilities will increase this season.
His 40-yard touchdown reception from Brady and later his 6-yard scoring reception displayed what Vereen can bring to the offense every game if healthy. He provides another option for Brady, who will definitely try to look his way more often.
“He’s really had such a dependable role for the last few years and just done a great job,” Brady said after the game. “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.”
The Cal product is entering the final year of his contract and would love to prove his value to the team. The Patriots currently have a log jam at the running back position, but none of them possess the kind of versatility Vereen gives the team. Not only is he reliable out of the backfield, he is gaining Brady’s trust by picking up blitzes. Head coach Bill Belichick highlighted Vereen’s role in the offense.
He said, “I think he made a couple real good plays today. The touchdown was a good awareness play on the goal line. Tom got him the ball, and he outflanked the coverage, was able to turn up and make a real good play to get the ball to the pylon. I thought his blitz pickup and overall running ability throughout the course of camp has shown up repeatedly in a positive way. Shane works hard. He’s a very dependable guy. He does a good job for us.”