Just as Shane Vereen appeared to have taken over the starting job as running back for the New England Patriots, he will now be forced miss a few weeks with a wrist injury. While this is bad news for the Pats and Vereen, it ends up being good news for the remaining running backs on the roster.
Jay Glazer of Fox Sports first reported the news of Vereen's injury, which occurred in the Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills:
While Stevan Ridley started the day as the primary back, Vereen finished it and ended up with 101 rushing yards on 14 carries. Surprisingly, he was the only running back in the NFL with over 100 rushing yards on Sunday.
The California Golden Bear also added seven receptions for 58 yards while becoming a quality all-around player in the first game of the season.
However, his injury should give those opportunities right back to Ridley, who became a non-factor after a fumble in the second quarter, which was recovered by Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy and returned 74 yards for a touchdown.
It turns out Bill Belichick is not fond of running backs who fumble.
Still, Ridley was effective before the play and finished with 46 yards on nine carries. This is much better production than what LeGarrette Blount provided, who only managed to tally 15 yards on his seven carries.
Although Blount seems to have the trust of the coaching staff, he has not been an effective runner since 2011.
After sending a message to his starter, Belichick is likely to give the ball back to Ridley with regularity in Week 2. He only lost two fumbles all year in 2012, and he is the best healthy running back on the roster.
The only question is which player will be able to step up in the passing game. Tom Brady loves to throw to running backs coming out of the backfield, something that he did often to Vereen in the first game. Players like Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead have also had that role in the past.
However, Ridley was largely ineffective as a receiver last season, totaling only six receptions for 51 yards. While Blount is not much better, he still managed 15 catches for 148 receiving yards in 2011 when he last held a starting role.
If Blount can prove himself as a receiver, he will remain an option going forward on third downs until Vereen is healthy. This gives him some value in deeper fantasy leagues, but he is still not worth a start until he proves himself in games.
Until then, Ridley owners should feel comfortable keeping the running back in their lineups, even after a bumpy start to the year.
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