Stevan Ridley is the best experienced power runner that they have on their roster. Many will argue this point, but he is the best pure RUNNING back that they have, and he has proven that he can effectively run the ball when given the workload. Look back at 2012 when he ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns. Yes he had four fumbles that season, but four fumbles out of 290 carries is a pretty good percentage. In 2013 he had 773 yards and seven touchdowns with three fumbles. Three fumbles on 178 carries, again not a bad percentage. His glaring weakness that everyone is so willing to point out is that he has fumble problems, but when given his chance in 2012 he delivered and can return to that form again this season if he is given the chance.
Shane Vereen is a problem for any defense to try and match up with him. We have seen him lined up in many different positions on the field and that is what makes him so dangerous. He can be in the backfield where he is both a threat to flare out of the backfield on a wheel route against a under skilled linebacker, or he can be a factor in the shotgun running game when they are running their up tempo offense and do not want to substitute. Ultimately, Shane Vereen is the best receiving back that they have on their roster, and he can be used effectively with Ridley and the other running back options.
James White is the hybrid of the group. He has the power of Ridley and the shiftiness of Vereen. He can be used as an I-formation zone read runner and can be used in the shotgun next to Brady as an added blocker. His vast variety of skills gives the Patriots great versatility in how they would like to use him.
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the Patriots running backs we can take a deeper dive into how they can be used in the Patriots offensive packages.
I'm not going to try to predict whether they will use more of a power run offensive plan or try to spread the defense out to run and pass out of shotgun, I am going to lay out the different possibilities that they can use each runner, and there are many different varieties that they can use in their backfield.
The first is their basic I-fomration or power running formation. Out of this formation their best options are to rely on the power and vision of Ridley and White. Ridley has the experience and should receive the vast majority of the carries out of this formation package, but White is a solid change of pace back and a good play action back as he can stay in to block for Brady.
The formation that Shane Vereen will primarily be used out of is the shotgun formation. He will be there when the offense wants to try to speed up the defense, creating mismatches out of the backfield and getting him lined up on a linebacker that is unable to cover him in open space. The shotgun formation is where you could see James White and Shane Vereen on the field at the same time. You can line both of them up next to Brady and it creates all sorts of possibilities for the offense. You can run a draw play with Vereen using White as your lead blocker, or you can motion Vereen out using him as a receiver and keeping James White in the back field as a personal protector for Brady.
When both James White and Shane Vereen are in the backfield at the same time the possibilities are endless, and it can be used to keep the defenses eyes in the back field and allow for the receivers to get open.
How do you think the Patriots should use their running backs this season?
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