Morning Huddle 9/10: Bills WR Stevie Johnson Left Hastily Sunday, Vereen Loss a blow to Patriots offense, Today’s Links
By: Ian Logue
The Patriots got some tough news following Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills, and it’s hard not to wonder how it’s going to affect them in the coming weeks.
Shane Vereen reportedly broke a bone in his wrist on his first play of the game in the Patriots opening day victory and now has to undergo surgery, which will keep him out a few weeks at the very least. It’s a tough blow, and it certainly couldn’t have come at a worse time for New England’s offense. The Patriots struggled moving the ball consistently on Sunday, and Vereen was obviously a huge factor in the victory, joining newcomer Danny Amendola along with Julian Edelman as the players who carried the majority of the offensive load for New England, especially in the second half.
Losing Shane Vereen is definitely a tough blow to the Patriots’ offense.
(USA TODAY Images)
Of his 14 carries where he finished with 101 yards on the afternoon, 11 of them came in the final two quarters where he rushed for 70 yards on 11 carries (6.4 avg) including a crucial 15 yard pick up on their final drive to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game winning field goal that put the nail in any shot at a comeback for Buffalo.
He was also a dual threat out of the backfield, having been targeted 10 times (second most on the afternoon behind Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins, who each had 14) for 7 catches and four first downs. Factor in that he also had four first downs rushing on the afternoon, and he accounted for 8 of their 25 total offensive first downs (they had 26 total on the day, with one coming off of a Bills penalty).
Overall his seven catches were just one shy of his entire reception total from last season were he was targeted just 13 times for 8 receptions and 149 yards. Last season Danny Woodhead was their multi-purpose back, having caught 40 passes for 446 yards and 22 first downs along with three touchdowns. Of those 40 receptions, 13 of them came on third down and he converted 8 first downs
He’s a weapon they really couldn’t afford to lose. They didn’t re-sign Woodhead, likely feeling that this season would be Vereen’s to take by the reigns and take on more of a role in the offense. Vereen came in after Stevan Ridley lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and he stepped up in a big way considering how well he carried the football. He seemed poised to potentially leave them with a difficult situation in terms of potentially challenging Ridley for carries, but that’s now out the window at this point and it gives Ridley more of an opportunity to battle his way back into the line-up.
Belichick talked about the fact that at 5’10” 205 pounds Vereen is a little bigger than Woodhead and former Patriot Kevin Faulk, and felt that using him more in the offense wasn’t something he was against.
“I think they’re all kind of in the same ballpark,” said Belichick when asked how Vereen compared to those players. “It depends on what you’re doing. Certainly he can play on all three downs; he showed that in college and we saw some of that yesterday. Whether that’s his best role or whether it’s a complementary role, it might change from game to game, it might change during the course of the season, it might change from season to season based on the rest of your roster and what type of plays you’re running offensively. He has good versatility to play really on all four downs.”
Unfortunately it looks like it will be a little while until he’s back on the field.
TIGHT END SITUATION REMAINS UNCLEAR, GRONKOWSKI UNEXPECTED FOR THURSDAY:
The Patriots still have question marks at the tight end position and they didn’t get any better on Monday after Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported that Zach Sudfeld suffered a hamstring injury, which leaves them now with just Michael Hoomanawanui until Rob Gronkowski is ready to return. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported this morning that Gronkowski is making progress but still isn’t ready, which leaves them extremely thin at that position. The Patriots let go of Daniel Fells before the start of the season and some had speculated that the news of Sudfeld could prompt a potential return to New England. But according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Fells is currently on the other side of the country and is set to visit the Seahawks. During the preseason he was targeted by Patriots quarterbacks 5 times with 5 receptions for 41 yards and converted 3 first downs. However, he reportedly suffered a concussion so his current health situation isn’t clear. Either way between the loss of Vereen and Sudfeld’s injury, it’s been a tough first week for the Patriots to say the least.
STEVIE JOHNSON SILENCED AFTER PATRIOTS WIN:
After spending the week proclaiming there was no one on the Patriots who could guard him, Stevie Johnson was targeted six times but finished with just three receptions and also had a key fourth quarter drop on a 3rd and 1. Following the loss Johnson reportedly bolted from the locker room, but then explained himself with the Buffalo News and just explained that he’s tired of coming up on the wrong end of games like this.
“It was just something personal against that team, I guess,” Johnson told the newspaper. “It ended in the same way. That was my frustration. Nothing with anybody, nothing with any play.
“We know that you can’t have a great game every week,” Johnson continued. “Every play isn’t going to be perfect. The game, it can go either way, and I felt like we’ve been to this point with this team too many times.”
ANOTHER GUARANTEE BY THE JETS FOR THIS WEEK:
It never gets old, but it appears another Jets player feels the need to add some fuel to the fire this week by guaranteeing a Jets victory against the Patriots on Thursday night. According to third-year defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson the Jets are going to become 2-0 after Thursday night. “We’re going to go to Foxboro and get this win,” Wilkerson said, via CBS New York. “We’re going to be 2-0.”
ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:
NOTEBOOK: Rob Gronkowski close, but not expected for Jets – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that Gronkowski is getting closer, but isn’t expected to play Thursday night against the Jets.
Ron Borges’ Patriots Report Card – Ron Borges – Borges has this week’s report card, and gives Tom Brady a “B-” for his performance on Sunday.
Bad break for Shane Vereen – Mark Daniels – Daniels has an article on Vereen’s injury, which he writes will now force others to produce.
Rob Gronkowski close, but not expected for Jets – Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook for this morning which leads off on the status of Rob Gronkowski, who isn’t expected to return Thursday night.
Patriots-Bills: Five takeaways from the game – Jeff Howe – Howe has his five takeaways, one of which he notes that Stephen Gostkowski’s critics should likely be silenced after his performance Sunday.
Passing attack headed for high-speed lane – Jeff Howe – Howe writes that despite struggles in week one that the Patriots offense won’t be stuck in place the whole season.
Patriots Take 2: How can the offense cure self-inflicted wounds? – Erik Frenz – Frenz takes a closer look at Sunday’s win and the problems the Patriots faced in different situations.
NOTEBOOK: Short week presents challenges for Patriots – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer writes that the Patriots have a tough challenge now preparing for the Jets on a short week.
Patriots takeaway points from “weak” one – Alice Cooper – Cooper has her points from week one, and writes that Tom Brady got it done against the Bills with crazy glue and chicken wire.
Patriots waste no time getting started on next test – Rich Garven – Garven has an article this morning on the fact the Patriots are already switching gears and preparing for the Jets.
Shane Vereen injured, Patriots turn to Stevan Ridley – Rich Garven Garven looks at the situation facing the Patriots now that Vereen will be out for a while, which puts Ridley back in the lead back role.
Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 – Christopher Price – Price looks at the penalties committed by the Patriots in week one.
After fumbling against the Bills, should Stevan Ridley remain the New England Patriots’ lead running back? – Nick Underhill – Underhill looks at the situation with Ridley and whether or not he should remain the lead back.
Patriots know what is up next – Tom King – King writes that when it comes to battling the Jets, sometimes there is no substitute for experience.
After Further Review: Patriots-Bills, 1st Half Defense – Erik Scalavino – Scalavino takes a look back at Sunday’s game and does a quarter-by-quarter film review and points out some of the bright spots.
After Further Review: Patriots-Bills, 2nd Half Defense – Erik Scalavino – Part two, as Scalavino once again takes a look back at Sunday’s game and does a quarter-by-quarter film review of the final half of the contest.
Bill Belichick Conference Call Transcript – Belichick spoke to the media Monday, and here’s the transcript from the press
Matt Patricia Conference Call – Matt Patricia spoke the media Monday, and Patriots.com has the transcript.
Josh McDaniels Conference Call – Josh McDaniels held a conference call with the media Monday, and here’s the transcript from that session.