This week brought terrible news for the New England Patriots as they found out that Rob Gronkowski is done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. So while Gronk now focuses on his February cameo in the “Entourage” movie, New England has to find a way to replace one of the NFL’s top two tight ends.
This is certainly no easy task either, when you consider that the 6’6″ pass-catching machine racked up 592 yards and 4 touchdowns in just 7 games this season. But if there’s anybody capable of softening this blow, it’s running back Shane Vereen.
Vereen has no doubt had his own injury struggles, missing eight games with a wrist injury. But when he’s on the field, he has been an incredible weapon for the Patriots. Vereen is the guy whom Tom Brady looks to when plays break down or there’s good down-field coverage. Brady had this type of target when Kevin Faulk was on the team a few years ago. But Vereen seems to be even more talented and is great at picking up yards after the catch.
Sure, the California product won’t generate any eye-popping rushing stats. After all, he has just 186 rushing yards on 38 carries in 2013. But his receiving stats are certainly notable since he’s hauled in 40 catches for 373 yards and a TD – all within five games’ work. Vereen’s last performance against Cleveland was especially impressive because he caught 12 balls for 153 yards, and added a touchdown run.
When Shane Vereen is on the field, it really forces defenses to keep an eye on him in the passing game. The end result is that there’s one less safety or linebacker dropping back in the secondary. Even when the opposition is focusing on Vereen, he has the ability to turn a short catch into a long run, as evidenced by the 50-yard play he made against Cleveland late in the third quarter.
Considering everything that we’ve discussed so far, you can’t count out New England’s offense down the stretch based on Gronk’s season-ending injury. It certainly isn’t good that their star tight end has been put on the shelf. But you also shouldn’t suddenly start betting against the Patriots when it comes to point spreads or live wagering. After all, Vereen is going to be picking up a lot of this slack throughout the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.