NESN's Doug Kyed on the team's passing-down running back competition:
Kyed also mentions Cadet, whom the Patriots went out and signed to a three-year deal. We would have thought White had the inside track as well, but that doesn't explain why the team signed Cadet. Whoever wins the job will become instantly relevant in PPR formats.
Shane Vereen caught 124 balls in 29 games over the past two years. His presence will undoubtedly be missed.
No single player on the Pats roster will fill his void. So here's what may happen: The Patriots have more talent at the No. 2 tight end spot than they did a year ago, so that position figures to command more targets while the running backs figure to command less.
Of that group, Cadet, a free agent signee from New Orleans, is the most intriguing. He has great receiving skills, as you'll see here, and seems comfortable splitting out wide and running routes, a rare trait for a running back.
If any single back wins the Patriots' pass-catching role outright, he'll suddenly be a factor in PPR formats. Vereen averaged 4.3 catches per game over the past two years (including the postseason). That projects to 68.8 receptions over a full 16-game season.
In hopes of complementing Alfred Morris with their first true big running back since Stephen Davis left after the 2002 season, the Redskins drafted Florida's 6-2, 226-pound Matt Jones in the third round this month.
"Alfred's a darn good halfback," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Saturday on the second day of Washington's three-day rookie minicamp. "In order to take carries off of him, you gotta show a lot. "So far, Matt's taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred (who had 85 percent of the carries by Washington's running backs the past three seasons). If you want to commit to running the football, you gotta have a couple guys that can tote it."
By hiring offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who helped make Dallas the NFL's top rushing offense in 2014, and using three of their first five draft choices on Jones, tackle Brandon Scherff, and guard Arie Kouandjio, new Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan has shown how committed the Redskins are to a power running game. McCloughan called Jones "a physical player and as tough as crud." And yet, Gruden raved about the rest of the rookie's game.
"You think of him as a big, power-type back, but Matt's done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive, making moves on the second level, in the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers," Gruden said. "He's got natural hands."
Jones only had 19 catches in three years at Florida, but it sounds as if he may compete for third down duties now that Roy Helu is no longer locking down that role. Morris has caught 68.5 percent of his targets, which is a higher rate than what Shane Vereen and Jamaal Charles posted last season, but he has yet to make much of an impression in the passing game.
“Usually when you put in changes or change the system or address fundamentals, it usually shows up in Year 2,’’ OC Ben McAdoo said. “I like the look in his eye. I am excited for what is on the plate this year.’’
Manning finished the season as the #10 fantasy quarterback, but was #2 over the final six weeks, when OC Ben McAdoo said that the team finally played the way it wanted to play. In Odell Beckham, Manning finally has a stud receiver. The free agent signing of receiving specialist Shane Vereen and the return of a (hopefully) healthy Victor Cruz give Manning two more weapons to utilize in the passing game. He looks like a great value for those who want to wait on the position until the 9th or 10th round.
Roy Helu, 26, looks like a perfect fit for Oakland’s new up-tempo offense that will often feature a no-huddle approach. ESPN scout Matt Williamson thinks Helu can be one of the Raiders’ most productive offensive weapons even though it will be in a limited role.
“While he isn’t great in protection, I think he will be a very valuable piece and a quick safe option for Derek Carr in this up-tempo passing game and offense overall,” Williamson said. “Helu has been extremely productive on a per-snap basis.”
Helu has averaged 2.69 catches per game in his four-year career, and is expected to serve as the team's primary passing down back while Latavius Murray and Trent Richardson compete for early-down duties. The Raiders are planning to move to a more up-tempo offense under OC Bill Musgrave, who spent last season working for Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Helu is likely to be fantasy relevant in PPR formats, though the explosive Murray should hold the most fantasy value in 2015.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 8:22pm
The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. as a No. 1 wide receiver in his 2014 rookie season after Cruz went down is one of those reasons. The severity of the injury (torn patellar tendon) from which Cruz is recovering is another. And this recent study by NumberFire, which shows that Cruz's production was already in decline in the two years prior to 2014, offers yet another.
The story goes on to say a lot could still depend on what happens in 2015 - whether or when Cruz recovers, how productive he is in the second year of Ben McAdoo's offense, how he meshes with Beckham and Rueben Randle and Shane Vereen and Larry Donnell and Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, all of the varied weapons available to the Giants on offense. This decision could be an easy one in either direction next February. But the potential is there for it to remain a tricky one, because of a lot of things that weren't yet factors when he signed that contract just two years ago. The Giants would save only $2.45 million against this year's cap if they cut Cruz now, and they have no reason to do so. But the cap savings jumps to $6.1 million if they cut him next offseason, the story adds.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 11:45am
Williams was partly victimized by an offensive line that lost way too many battles at the line of scrimmage, failing to open up holes long enough for Williams to exploit. Only one starting offensive lineman had a positive run blocking grade last season, per Pro Football Focus (left tackle Will Beatty at +6.1).
Williams also displayed poor vision in finding those holes and cutback lanes. At 5-11, 230 pounds, Williams is a bruising north-south runner with some giddy-up when he gets to the second level, but he had trouble grasping the patience aspect of being an every-down back. Instead of waiting a split-second after he was handed the ball for his blocks to materialize, Williams would often run straight ahead, knocking into the backside of his offensive linemen countless times.
That's not to say that Williams' rookie year was a complete lost cause, the story went on to say. He finally broke the 100-yard mark in Week 14 against the woeful Tennessee Titans, busting out for 131 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Two weeks later against a much better St. Louis Rams defense, Williams gashed them for 110 yards on 26 carries. Those performances give reason for optimism that Williams can develop into a nice complementary back in his sophomore season. But with Shane Vereen now in the fold as the likely third down running back behind Jennings, that leaves Williams' role this year up for question.
LeGarrette Blount will begin next season on the bench.
A league spokesperson informed NFL Media on Tuesday that the New England Patriots running back has been suspended without pay for the first game of the 2015 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse.
The sixth-year back played a core role during New England's Super Bowl run after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers in mid-November. After running for just 266 yards over 11 games with the Steelers, Blount hammered defenses for 281 yards over New England's final five games of the regular season. He blasted opponents for another 189 yards over three playoff tilts under coach Bill Belichick.
Blount is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices. He'll be permitted to make his season debut Week 2, the story added. It's a brief suspension, but Blount's absence puts New England in a pinch out of the gate. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are gone, leaving Jonas Gray, James White, Brandon Bolden and James Develin next up to get work.
With Shane Vereen leaving to join the Giants, the Patriots needed a new pass-catching RB, and Cadet fits the bill. Cadet has caught 45 of 61 targets for a 7.7 yards-per-catch average. Vereen had a lower catch rate but a higher YPC (9.6) in three years with the Patriots. If he can secure the job, Cadet will be fantasy relevant in PPR formats.
Vereen will serve as the team's passing down back, putting a sizable dent in the upside of Rashad Jennings, who averaged 3.2 catches (and 23 receiving yards) in the nine games in which he played significant snaps. With Andre Williams also in the mix for early down work, this situation appears to be devolving into a true committee.
LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden, who excels on special teams, are going to be on next year's roster. There will be one pass-catching back; whether that player is Shane Vereen or James White or someone else remains to be seen. If Stevan Ridley is re-signed, that's four running backs. There will also be competition from Tyler Gaffney, a 6-foot-1, 227-pound back who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. So Gray will probably have to prove himself in the offseason.
Vereen, who had 11 receptions in the Super Bowl, is a free agent. He probably won't cost the team a ton (for reference, Danny Woodhead got a two year, $3.5 million contract from San Diego in 2013).
The Patriots let Woodhead walk because they also had Vereen, so their decision may be based on their depth at the position. If they feel confident that rising second-year pro James White can fill Vereen's spot, you might not see No. 34 in a Pats uniform come next fall.
Part of Vereen's appeal is that he plays in a friendly system, but he lacks consistency, even in PPR formats. The team's willingness to re-sign Vereen will likely come down to price.
The Ravens have only allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the regular season, and they held Jimmy Graham to 47 yards receiving. Do the Ravens have a chance of slowing down Rob Gronkowski, or do you throw out those numbers because he is on a different level?
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss: They can definitely slow Gronkowski, but it will come at a cost. One of the most impressive things about Gronkowski’s season to me is how his 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns hardly tell the whole story. It’s plays like touchdown catches by Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen against the Broncos on Nov. 2 that highlight his true value because there were three to four defenders swarming around Gronkowski in the end zone, creating those one-on-one opportunities for Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen. That was pretty commonplace this season with Gronkowski, who is a pure combination tight end in the sense that he can also dominate as a blocker when he wants; it's not just catching the ball. So I’d be surprised if the Ravens can slow Gronkowski consistently with just one player like safety Will Hill. But if they want to devote extra resources to it, they can probably dictate the ball going elsewhere, and the Patriots have shown the ability to capitalize when that happens.
The Ravens are one of the tougher run defenses in the NFL, ranking fourth this season in holding opponents to an average of 88.3 yards per game and not allowing a 100-yard rusher in the past 27 games. They are a sturdy front seven and with this in mind, it's hard to imagine the Patriots go with a heavy diet of bigger personnel and a power-running approach. Instead, a more likely scenario is that the Patriots attempt to manipulate matchups in hopes of lightening the box and getting the Ravens into sub packages to test their overall quality and depth in the defensive backfield, which is their primary area of vulnerability. For the Patriots to do this, adding a second tight end with more of a pass-catching profile, third receiver, or second running back makes sense. This is where Wright, a "move" tight end, could be a bigger factor. When blocking-based tight end Michael Hoomanawanui is paired with Rob Gronkowski, it usually results in opponents playing base defense. But when Wright is paired with Gronkowski, it has sometimes been sub because he's more of a pass-catching threat. The Patriots have had success going up-tempo with that grouping as well, so we could envision Wright being a bigger part of the plan Saturday, with receiver Danny Amendola and running back Brandon Bolden (in a two-back set with Shane Vereen) as other options.
Wright's production has been spotty, but when the Patriots have called his number, he has usually delivered.
Friday, December 26, 2014, 6:53pm
Patriots RB Shane Vereen (ankle, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 17. Vereen should continue to play through the questionable tag, but the workload status of all the Patriot starters is very much up in the air in what amounts to a meaningless game.
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