Sunday's Patriots season opener was supposed to be a momentum-builder for third-year running back Shane Vereen, as he was a standout performer. But now comes news (first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports) that he broke a small bone in his wrist, was scheduled for surgery today, and is expected to be out for a few weeks.
So let's look at where the Patriots go from here.
Vereen, as we know, is the team's top "passing back," which is the role previously held by Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead. In addition to his work as a rusher (101 yards Sunday) and pass-catcher (7 receptions, 58 yards), the "passing back" is also relied upon heavily in pass protection. That's where the Patriots might miss Vereen most Thursday against a Jets defense that often nicely disguises its intentions pre-snap.
Second-year player Brandon Bolden (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) would be a top candidate to replace Vereen, but he didn't play Sunday because of a knee injury. So that leaves recently re-signed veteran Leon Washington (5-8, 192) as the potential next man up in the "passing back" role. The only other options are Stevan Ridley (5-11, 220) and LeGarrette Blount (6-0, 250), and they aren't as elusive in the passing game.
Without Vereen, the Patriots lose a big-play threat. The team had nine "chunk plays" of 19 yards or more on Sunday, and the speedy Vereen had three of them -- runs of 21, 20 and 19 yards. He also played more than any running back (56 snaps, including penalties), showing that he can be a factor on all four downs (he also played on punt coverage and kickoff return units).
At a time when the Patriots' passing offense is struggling to find its groove, and it also might not have receiver Danny Amendola (groin), this is a tough blow.
Vereen had really been coming on.