Monday, August 12, 2013

For now, Pats' RB corps ready to carry load


The progression of New England's untested wideout crew has been a hot-button issue this offseason. For now, the Pats' ground game will be expected to pick up the slack.

If Saturday's first preseason game is any indication of things to come, the team's offensive efficiency shouldn't miss a beat while its receivers and quarterback get on the same page.

"Like I said about this running back group, we're special," Stevan Ridley told reporters after Saturday's 31-22 win. "We've got a lot of work to do, and I can just say that we're off to a good start."

Ridley started off strong in his first preseason game, amassing 92 yards and tallying a touchdown on the team's first drive. Newcomer LeGarrette Blount had a strong showing as well, putting up 101 yards and two touchdowns of his own.

"LeGarrette ran for however many, [1,007] yards whatever it was, his rookie season. It’s not like he hasn’t performed well in this league before," coach Bill Belichick said of the 26-year-old Saturday. "We traded for a player that we thought was a good player. It’s no shock he can run the ball. We all know that. He did a nice job last night."

The team as a whole ran 31 rushing plays against Philadelphia for 248 yards, while its passing game (though mostly sans Tom Brady) threw for less than 200.

And the one passing touchdown the team did put up? A 13-yard pass to running back Shane Vereen, who's looking to take over for the now departed Danny Woodhead. Vereen lined up on the outside and beat linebacker Mychal Kendricks to the corner of the end zone on a beautifully placed ball by Brady.

"It was a great catch, I mean to get his feet down, a tight area, Shane (Vereen) has been doing that but I mean he's really come on," Brady said after the game. "He's really continued to improve so it was great to see him make that play."

While New England's passing game didn't look terrible, it certainly hasn't found its flow just yet. That may have been most apparent with rookie Aaron Dobson, who had only two receptions for 35 yards despite being targeted eight times. Julian Edelman looked equally as shaky, pulling in only three of his five targets and fumbling twice (both fumbles were recovered). No Patriots receiver had more yardage than Dobson.

On the whole, Belichick seemed pleased with the team's performance on the ground, and he credited some of that success to the blocking done by the receivers on the perimeter. According to Belichick, some of Friday's success came from the shear number of running plays the team was able to run, coupled with the adjustments the team was able to make to a specific play if it wasn't properly executed the first time.

"I think we had our moments and like I said, even though the yardage was high, I think that's a little bit deceptive. There were some encouraging things. We had a chance to run quite a few of them. We had a lot of snaps, so that gave us an opportunity to repeat some plays and see some things run two, three, four times, either against a little bit different look on defense or maybe see how a player did after he did it once. 

"I think that was an area that we showed some level of execution and at and there are still some things we can do better."

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