Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Patriots expect rookie RBs to be ready to go

Vereen (Photo: John Martinez Pavliga)
The New England Patriots took two running backs early in the 2011 draft, and the Patriots expect them to contribute this season. How much? Who knows. And no one expects to get an answer until kickoff Monday night.

The Patriots took California’s Shane Vereen in the second round (56th overall) and LSU’s Stevan Ridley in the third round (73rd overall). Both players are obviously behind BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead on the depth chart, though we won’t be surprised if both see a fair amount of action this year, as Patriots coach Bill Belichick seems to have a role for everyone.

“The expectation is the same for each player at every position,” Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio told the media Tuesday via conference call. “We tell every player to be ready to play, including the players on the practice squad because there's a possibility that they can be elevated to play on Sunday or Monday – whenever the game is. So the expectation is the same for each player: that they prepare, they come in, they study the opponent, they know the personnel that they're playing against and they prepare themselves to play as if they're going to play the entire game. And however much they end up playing, that's dictated based on how the game sort of plays out. So the expectation for that (running back) position is no different than it is for any other position."

That’s a typical long-winded, say-nothing Patriots answer, though it seems like the New England staff has been pleased with what it’s seen out of the two rookie backs.

Ridley got the heavier load of work in preseason and took advantage. He picked up 148 yards on 30 carries, averaging 4.9 yards a clip with two touchdowns. Vereen had just 11 carries for 34 yards.

“As with every rookie in the league, it's always a difficult beginning,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said. “When you go into your first game there are some things that you're not going to be used to and that you're going to have to get used to early. I believe that both [Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley] along with that whole position has had a very consistent, good camp for us. They'll be ready to go.”

Vereen, who measures in at 5-9, 205 points, amassed 29 rushing touchdowns and six receiving touchdowns in 38 games with the Golden Bears. The 5-11, 225-pound Ridley scored 19 times on the ground in 39 games for LSU.