Shane Vereen

Damien Harris' low usage par for the course in the Belichick Era

Damien Harris' low usage par for the course in the Belichick Era

N'Keal Harry isn't the only high-profile rookie on the Patriots offense struggling to find a role.

While Harry, the team's first-round pick, has received more attention thus far, another highly-touted prospect, third-round pick Damien Harris, hasn't been able to get on the field much either.

Despite the mediocre performance of the team's running game, Harris has only dressed for two games through the bye week. He has just four carries for 12 yards. And all of those opportunities came in garbage time of the team's blowout win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.

On the surface, this may be surprising. After all, Harris had two 1,000-yard seasons at Alabama and totaled 20 touchdowns over the course of his last two seasons. He was considered to be one of the best running backs available in the 2019 NFL Draft. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah had him ranked as the 66th-best player in the class and fourth-overall among running backs.

And just look at some of his dominant plays from his college days.

So why aren't the Patriots playing him much? The answer is fairly simple.

It's par for the course for Bill Belichick to give non-first-round running backs a year to get acclimated to the NFL.

Since 2011, Belichick and the Patriots have drafted four running backs outside of the first round. They are Harris (2019), James White (2014), Shane Vereen (2011), and Stevan Ridley (2011).

We already dove into Harris' first-year stats so far, and they are pretty much non-existent. But the other runners on this list weren't very productive as rookies either.

Ridley was the best of the bunch, playing in all 16 games during his rookie season and logging 441 yards and a score on 87 carries. He served as an early-downs option in the team's backfield-by-committee approach, splitting time with the likes of Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.

However, neither Vereen nor White did much at all as rookies. They played in five and three games respectively and posted very similar yardage totals (Vereen had 15 touches for 57 yards while White had 14 for 51). But for the most part, each was relegated to the inactives list on gameday.

Though they didn't do much as rookies, both Vereen and White would eventually find their strides with the Patriots and become key role players for the squad. So too would Ridley.

White, in particular, has developed well, and he is currently one of the best receiving backs in the NFL. He even made a case to be the Super Bowl 52 MVP after his record-breaking performance helped to key the team's comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.

Harris figures to follow a similar path to these three. He'll see a little work as a rookie and if he develops, he could easily become an impactful player in the Patriots' offense. It just may not be this year.

Of course, Harris could end up getting a chance to prove himself if the running game continues to sputter. But it's not a major surprise that he hasn't done much yet. Belichick simply likes to take time to develop his running backs, so he's choosing to trust the more veteran options on New England's roster.

Harris is patiently awaiting his opportunity, and it will eventually come. Just don't be surprised if his big chance doesn't arrive until his second season in the NFL.

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Ex-Patriots RB Shane Vereen is now a FOX college football analyst, per report

Ex-Patriots RB Shane Vereen is now a FOX college football analyst, per report

Add Shane Vereen to the list of former New England Patriots players to find a second career in broadcasting.

FOX has hired the ex-Patriots running back as an analyst covering college football games this season, the New York Post's Andrew Marchand reported Monday. According to Marchand, Vereen will join the broadcast team of Justin Kutcher and Petros Papadakis.

Vereen joined the Patriots in 2011 as a second-round pick out of the University of California and carved out a solid role as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He recorded a team-high 11 receptions in Super Bowl XLIX to help the Patriots defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

New England let Vereen walk in 2015, and he latched on with the Giants to play three more NFL seasons. Injuries eventually derailed Vereen's playing career, as he signed with the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2018 season but was placed on injured reserve and later released with an injury settlement.

The 30-year-old apparently has found a new calling, though, joining the likes of Willie McGinest (NFL Network) and Tedy Bruschi (ESPN) of ex-Patriots joining the national media ranks. (Several former Patriots also have joined the NBC Sports Boston team at various points, including Jerod Mayo, Troy Brown and Rob Ninkovich.)

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Shane Vereen: Patriots offense 'shifts and morphs to the talent of its players'

Shane Vereen: Patriots offense 'shifts and morphs to the talent of its players'

The New England Patriots have made some major moves on offense this offseason, so there are some questions surrounding the team. However, one former Patriot recently expressed no concerns about the changes that could be coming to the unit in 2019.

Former Patriots running back Shane Vereen recently served as a guest analyst for ESPN and spoke about what to expect from the offense in 2019. Here's what he said about the unit, per ESPN's Mike Reiss.

It's an offense that shifts and morphs to the talent of its players. Josh McDaniels is not stuck in his ways of how he's going to play this game, or call each game. Every game, every week is different. They have different matchups. Different schemes per defense, for each week. That makes the offense difficult to learn, but very difficult to stop because you never really know how they're going to attack you each and every week.

With that being said, with Gronk out, they will have guys to come in to fill his spot. They won't be Gronk, don't get me wrong. There is not another Gronk. We won't see another Gronk for a very, very long time, if we ever see another one. But they have enough talent on that team and they have enough wherewithal to figure it out and still be successful. They've done it for years.

It's good to see that Vereen is confident that the Patriots will figure out a way to replace Gronk. The team lost the top three tight ends from their depth chart last year as Gronkowski retired, Dwayne Allen was cut, and Jacob Hollister was traded. So, they will have a new look at the position this fall.

Veterans Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse will likely have a chance to hold down the fort while Ben Watson serves a four-game suspension, but younger players like Ryan Izzo or undrafted free agent Andrew Beck could also get a chance. 

Still, it will be interesting to see what they ultimately plan on doing at the tight end position, as that has suddenly become the team's biggest question mark on offense. McDaniels will certainly have his work cut out for him in finding a solution there.

But as Vereen pointed out, the Patriots have been adept at replacing talented departures over the course of the years, and they will likely figure out a way to keep their offense humming in 2019. They could choose to adapt their offense to make it more receiver-friendly, while using fewer tight ends, or they could even shift to a ground-and-pound style because of the talent and diversity they have in their backfield.

The Patriots have options, and it will be interesting to see how they choose to run their offense for the '19 season.

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