The New York Giants certainly got their money's worth out of running back Shane Vereen in 2015. In desperate need of a back who could be a real pass-catching weapon, something they really had not had since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012, the Giants signed the former New England Patriots back to a three-year, $12.35 million contract, with $4.75 million guaranteed.
Let's take a look at Vereen's 2015 season and see what the expectations should be for 2016 as we continue our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp in just a few days.
2015 Season in Review
Vereen set career highs in receptions (59), targets (81), yards receiving (495), receiving touchdowns (4) and catch percentage (72.8 percent). He ran 61 times for 260 yards (4.3 yards per carry). He also filled in at times for Dwayne Harris as the kickoff returner, bringing back 14 kickoffs for 321 yards (22.9 yards per return). His 1,076 all-purpose yards was a career high.
The 59 receptions placed him second on the Giants behind Odell Beckham Jr., who had 96 catches in his 15 games played. Thirty-nine percent (23) of Vereen's 59 receptions created first downs.
2016 Season Outlook
This should be an easy one. Off the way things ended up a season ago, there is no reason not to believe that 2015 leading rusher Rashad Jennings will open the season as the featured back, and that Vereen will resume his role as a third-down and long-yardage specialist. Thinking specifically about the 27-year-old Vereen, there are few backs in the league better in the "third-down back" role than he is.
And yet ...
And yet you wonder. Partially because the Giants used that ridiculous four-man running back committee a year ago, and right now we have no idea if that is something first-year coach Ben McAdoo, who may or may not have been responsible for it in 2015, will keep in place.
There is also the presence of rookie fifth-round pick Paul Perkins, who comes to the NFL considered a "change of pace" back similar to Vereen. Could the youngster eventually force his way onto the field, stealing some of Vereen's snaps? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
In the end, I do expect Vereen to play at least as big a role on offense as he did last year. You can even argue that his role should be expanded.
There were five games last season in which Vereen was targeted at least eight times in the passing attack. The Giants scored 30 or more points in four of those games. There were also, however, eight games during which Vereen was targeted four or fewer times, including zero targets Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills. It would be nice to see the Giants get Vereen the ball a bit more consistently.