The New York Giants did not make a ton of splashy, big-name signings during free agency this past offseason. One of the biggest moves they did make, however, was to sign former New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen. Let's look at Vereen's potential impact on the Giants offense as we near the end of our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2014 Season in Review
Vereen got a ring with the Super Bowl champion Patriots, and he certainly earned it. He caught an incredible 11 passes from Tom Brady for 64 yards, and added four carries for 13 yards in New England's 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Beyond that, the 26-year-old four-year veteran the best season of his career. A 2011 second-round pick by New England, Vereen had career highs in rushing with 391 yards on 96 carries (4.1 yards per carry) and receiving with 52 catches for 447 yards (8.6 yards per catch). Vereen has a total of 99 receptions during the past two seasons.
2015 Season Outlook
A year ago, the Giants signed Rashad Jennings to be their featured back and Andre Williams to be a complementary power back and perhaps the featured back of the future. The Giants, though, also hoped to have 2012 first-round pick David Wilson as a situational back. They hoped to use his speed to create mismatches in the passing game and generate big plays as a result. We know, of course, that Wilson's career-ending neck injury did not allow that to happen. The mismatch-creating, game-breaking element the Giants hoped Wilson would provide is one they were never able to replicate and one the offense missed in 2014.
The Giants gave Vereen a three-year, $12.35 million deal with $4.375 million guaranteed even though the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder has never been a feature back. That isn't why the Giants brought him to New York, anyway. They brought him in to be a game-changer, to be a guy who can make their screen game a weapon, who can help move the chains and can turn dump off passes into positive yardage. They brought him in to add that element that Wilson, sadly, was not given the chance to add.
"We felt Vereen was a really nice piece," GM Jerry Reese said after the signing. "Everyone knows what he does as a receiver out of the backfield, he can run the ball. He is a professional football player back there. He is really good on third down. Really good on any down, to be honest. We thought he would be a nice piece."
Throughout the spring you could Vereen and quarterback Eli Manning beginning to develop some comfort with each other.
"You can see why Shane has had some of the success he has had. He can be a quarterback's best friend in a way in the passing game. Similar to the way tight ends can be," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said during minicamp. "He has great body language coming out of the backfield. He usually does not fool the quarterback and they seem to be on the same page, and it happened pretty early."
Vereen has never been used heavily as a runner. His 96 carries in 2014 (six per game) were the most of his career. Perhaps that will be different with the Giants, who seemed to be trying to incorporate him into the rushing attack during the spring.
"I'm just trying to keep my feet on the ground. I'm trying to learn everything as I go and stay ahead of the playbook and just focus on the things I can do to get better," Vereen said. "I'm very excited. I think this offense has a lot of talent and a lot of weapons. Hopefully we can come together and we can use all the weapons to our advantage. I think an offense with so much talent that you can play off of each other and it helps everybody perform well."
Vereen's skill set, something the Giants did not have from the running back spot a year ago, could be a big part of that.