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New England Patriots Links 7/04/12 - Ridley & Vereen: The Next Dynamic Duo?

Shane Vereen will hit Training Camp battling for how big his role will be.
Shane Vereen will hit Training Camp battling for how big his role will be.

James Walker (ESPN) AFC East training camp battles.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Running back: Stevan Ridley versus Shane Vereen

The reigning AFC champions are venturing into the unknown at running back. After losing dependable starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis to free agency, the Patriots are looking to second-year tailbacks Ridley and Vereen to carry the load. Both will get their share of carries this year. But the one who performs best in training camp and the preseason will be the starter.

Ridley averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry as a rookie in 2011. He has a good burst between the tackles but needs to fix his fumbling woes. He had two in the regular-season finale against Buffalo and the divisional playoff game against Denver. Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't go back to Ridley the rest of the postseason. Vereen is quick and looks to be more of a home run hitter. Injuries hampered Vereen last season, but the Patriots are pretty high on last year's second-round pick. Danny Woodhead and former Indianapolis Colts tailback Joseph Addai also are in the mix for depth. Woodhead and Addai are expected to contribute more on third-down situations.

Andy Hart is asked if he thinks that Ridley and Vereen could turn into an [Ahmad] Bradshaw and [Brandon] Jacobs duo?

I really like the potential of both Ridley and Vereen. It’s even more intriguing to consider how they could develop together as a tandem. But it’s not really in the thunder-and-lightning Giants mold you referenced. Jacobs is a massive, 6-4, 260-plus pound giant. Ridley, the bigger of New England’s young backs, is five inches shorter and 30 pounds smaller. He’s also a far more elusive, athletic runner than Jacobs. Vereen is clearly the more explosive, change-of-pace players, but Ridley’s own abilities in that area are a bit undersold. Hopefully Ridley will get over his ball security problem and Vereen will develop into the guy the Patriots targeted with a second-round pick. If that’s the case you will see the ground game become a little bit more a part of the offense, at the very least complementing the passing attack more than has been the case the last year or so.