*He's 5-foot-10, 230 pounds, the biggest tailback on the New England roster.
*Gray had a sensational senior season at Notre Dame in 2011, rushing for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 114 carries before tearing his ACL on Senior Day. He took the starting job from running back Cierre Wood when the Irish were 4-3. When he injured his knee, Notre Dame was 8-3.
*Gray earned his spot on the Patriots roster after a strong preseason, which included a 12-carry, 98-yard performance against Philadelphia.
*Gray rushed for over 2,600 yards and 32 touchdowns as a senior at Detroit Country Day School. It's also the same high school that produced NBA players Chris Webber, Shane Battier and JaVale McGee.
*There were 18 running backs drafted in 2012. Gray was not among them. He signed futures contracts with Miami and then Baltimore, and hasn't carried the ball in a regular season game since his final game at Notre Dame in November, 2011.
It's telling that the Patriots elected to play Gray ahead of veteran Brandon Bolden on a short week. Shane Vereen led the running backs in touches with 16, while Gray saw three carries and Bolden had one catch. We would expect Gray's role to increase as he has more time to run with the first team in practice. Perhaps a role of 6-8 carries per game is in his future. Vereen's role expanded significantly in Week 7, but again, it was a short week of preparation.
This means that Gray is likely to be active for tonight's game against the Jets. It doesn't mean he's going to see significant snaps, but he may be in the mix. We're expecting Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden (career 4.5 YPC) to get most of Ridley's carries. Gray is a name to remember, however.
Out of the four backs, Gray most closely resembles Ridley as a power, north-south runner. He had a nice preseason effort against the Eagles, carrying 12 times for 98 yards. But that was Aug. 15, and this is the regular season.
The story also believes the Pats could get by with Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. In the preseason, many on the Patriots beat felt James White was a guy who could eventually replace Vereen next season, so he doesn't seem like a candidate to get the between-the-tackles carries. The Pats running game has often been a mystery week-to-week and it looks like it's going to stay that way.
Much like his career in New England, Ridley was up and down this season after getting benched numerous times last season for fumbling. He was the best power runner on the team, so his presence will be missed. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden will likely pick up the slack at least in Week 7 - a short week, Thursday night home game against the Jets. It's also possible we see more of James White, the rookie who gained a lot of popularity in the preseason. The only thing safe to say about this situation is it won't be very safe at all, as the Pats rushing attack is often specific to their opponent. Vereen will continue to be a usable back in PPR leagues, but Bolden has had his chances in the past and odds say he won't be the long-term answer. It's very possible the team brings in another back leading up to Week 8.
Ridley is the best pure runner on the Patriots and adds an element of toughness between the tackles that Shane Vereen simply doesn't bring to the table, the story added. Brandon Bolden stepped in to take some snaps in Ridley's place and would likely see more going forward. It's also possible we see some James White, a popular name in the preseason. The Pats have a quick turnaround and play Thursday night at home against the Jets so it's likely they ride with Vereen and Bolden in a tough matchup because they may not have time to add a bigger back who could provide significant snaps by Thursday.
Friday, September 19, 2014, 7:09pm
Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 3. Vereen is expected to play, but owners should have James White on speed dial. He’d likely be active if Vereen can’t play. Brandon Bolden is in the mix as well. One thing is for sure — Stevan Ridley looks like a great start against a very bad Oakland rush defense. The Pats play early on Sunday.
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 6:30pm
Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder) took limited practice reps again Thursday. We’ll monitor his practice reps this week, but we’re guessing that he’ll be questionable heading into an early kickoff on Sunday. Stevan Ridley would be an excellent start if Vereen were limited/out.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014, 6:15pm
Patriots RB Shane Vereen (shoulder) took limited practice reps Wednesday. This could explain the limited touches in Week 2. We’ll monitor his practice reps this week, but we’re guessing that he’ll be questionable heading into an early kickoff heading into Sunday. Stevan Ridley would be a great start if Vereen were limited/out.
Patriots players tell me they weren't happy with the way they ran the ball in the season opener and there will be a concerted effort to improve in that area Sunday in Minnesota. Shane Vereen (61 snaps) was the primary running back in the opener over Stevan Ridley (22 snaps) and Brandon Bolden (nine snaps). The team wants to feed that group a bit more, starting with Vereen. Players were impressed with how Vereen performed in early-down and short-yardage situations in the opener. Look for him to get more opportunities in those situations this week.
Vereen saw seven carries compared to Ridley's eight, which is more even than we were expecting heading into the season. This is great news for longtime 4for4 favorite Vereen, who is already a high-end RB2 in PPR formats without the extra carries. If he starts to get consistent looks in the running game (including red zone work, like he did in Week 1), watch out.
Monday, September 8, 2014, 8:14pm
The 26-year-old spent the past three seasons with the Dolphins, but was released at the end of the 2014 preseason. He's a bigger back (6-1, 235) who has struggled in pass protection in games against the Patriots. Career stats: 40 games played, 3 starts. 365 carries for 1,312 yards (3.6 avg.). He entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice (62nd overall) out of Kansas State.
After Shane Vereen led the Pats RBs in snaps and also scored a TD from in close, it makes sense the Pats are looking for a back to perhaps save Vereen from the hard, inside runs. Steven Ridley saw limited time in Week 1.
Monday, September 8, 2014, 9:00am
Vereen had a short-yardage TD in the game on top of his normal pass-catching duties James White was inactive. It's hard to get a feel for the Pats offense week-to-week, but Vereen continues to be the safest play.
TE Rob Gronkowski played on just 38 of 76 snaps but did catch a TD. It was expected he wouldn't see significant time. If that trend continues next week, he's still worth putting in fantasy lineups for his red zone presence alone.
Sunday, August 24, 2014, 1:52pm
He caught A.J. Klein sleeping in coverage for a 40-yard touchdown, and then looked like Superman extending for the pylon on his second score of the night. He tallied five catches, on five targets, for 57 yards.
He only had 18 yards on six rushes, but that came in a backfield that never got rolling as a unit.
Vereen remains a matchup problem for defenses, and the Patriots use of split backs could be a weapon that makes the most of his unique skills. He may have his share of up and down weeks but Vereen is a very good PPR option who is usually available in rounds three or four in most formats.
Shane Vereen is the only Patriots running back with a cemented status as they wind down their preparations for the regular season, and he showcased why last night during a 30-7 victory against the Panthers at Gillette Stadium.
Vereen caught all five passes thrown in his direction for 57 yards and two touchdowns, and he added six carries for 18 yards. While Stevan Ridley appears to be the favorite to corral the bulk of the carries and James White is shaping up as a worthy backup, Vereen has unquestionably solidified his job as the back in charge of the pass-catching responsibilities.
For a team run by Tom Brady, those chances will be aplenty.
“He’s really had such a dependable role for us for the last few years and just done a great job,” Brady said. “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.”
Vereen is one reason why we're not at all opposed to drafting one or two wideouts at the 1/2 turn since he's often available around the 3/4 turn and is great in PPR formats. Last year, over the course of eight regular season games and two playoff games, Vereen averaged 10.7 touches (including 5.4 catches) for 76 yards and 0.40 TD, though his usage in the running game was limited once the Patriots decided to lean on LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley between the tackles. With Blount gone, Vereen’s role could increase. He should be a fringe RB2 (at least) in standard formats and a solid RB2 in PPR leagues, provided he stays healthy.
When the Patriots put two versatile running backs in the game at the same time, how will defenses match them? That’s something to consider after watching Shane Vereen catch a short pass from Tom Brady and race 40 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown in the second quarter. Vereen and running back James White were on the field at the same time on the play, as the Patriots used that “pony” grouping six times in the opening half.
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