Shane Vereen makes case for getting Mac Jones a pass-catching back


If the goal is setting Mac Jones up for success in 2023, the New England Patriots got off to a good start by hiring veteran offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.

But there's still another way the Patriots can support their quarterback this season: by getting Jones a security blanket.

Just ask former Patriots running back Shane Vereen, who excelled as a pass-catcher and checkdown option for Tom Brady during his four seasons in New England and played a crucial role in the team's Super Bowl XLIX victory by catching 11 passes for 64 yards. Vereen joined our Phil Perry on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to explain the importance of a pass-catching running back in an NFL offense -- and how Jones could benefit from a Vereen-type player in New England's backfield.

Next Pats Podcast: Here’s the skill the Patriots’ next third-down back HAS TO HAVE | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

"I think so," Vereen told Perry when asked if he thought the Patriots should make an effort to reincorporate a third-down back into their offense. "I think it's going to help out Mac Jones as well to utilize the checkdown. Tom (Brady) utilized to checkdown any time he could, and it's going to help Mac Jones get the ball out faster."

In addition giving Jones a reliable bail-out option, a "checkdown back" also could help the Patriots avoid third-and-long situations, Vereen explained.

"It's going to keep the chains moving," Vereen said. "More than anything, if it's not on third down, maybe it's on first or second down. Now you're getting into third and manageable. Now you get into second and short, which keeps drives alive and keeps drives going.

"It's not always the third-down back catching the ball and getting the first down. Sometimes it's the checkdown that picks up five or six yards on first down that then sets up a longer drive."

The Patriots had a prolific pass-catching back last season in Rhamondre Stevenson, who led the entire team with 69 receptions for 421 yards. New England also leaned heavily on Stevenson in the run game, however -- he racked up 210 carries for 1,040 yards -- and perhaps could benefit from utilizing a pass-catching specialist in the mold of Kevin Faulk, Vereen or James White who could help limit Stevenson's mileage.

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So, who could be the Patriots' Vereen in 2023? New England could turn to an internal option like veteran Ty Montgomery or dynamic young cornerback Marcus Jones, who showed promise as a two-way talent as a rookie. The team also has plenty of cap space if it wants to pursue a pass-catching back in free agency.

Whoever the Patriots turn to in that role needs to have one crucial trait, says Vereen.

"It's going to be consistency," Vereen added. "Are you consistently in the spot that we need you to be when we need you to be there? Are you on the same page not just with the quarterback, but are you on the same page with the offensive linemen and blitz protection and pass pro(tection)? Are you in conjunction with the receivers and the conceptual routes and the spacing?

"So much of that part isn't really highlighted on Sundays, but it's probably the most important part of being a third-down back or just a running back in that type of offense."

Vereen also shared why the Patriots are "closer than people think" to being contenders again, while Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy joined Perry as well to discuss the impact of Jerod Mayo staying on New England's staff. Subscribe to the Next Pats podcast or watch the full episode on YouTube below.

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