Roster Battle: Running backs

After the 2011 draft, it appeared the Patriots were loaded with too many running backs.

At this point, no one is even sure what the depth chart will look like.

Last year’s pair of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead accounted for over 1,900 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns, so when the team added two high-round picks in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, the future looked bright.

However, the situation isn’t as clear after the end of the preseason Thursday night.

Vereen, the 56th overall pick, missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, and didn’t look particularly good in the Pats’ 18-17 loss to the Giants.

While he was running behind backups himself, Vereen only averaged 3.1 yards on 11 carries and only caught one pass for eight yards.

Ridley had been a preseason star through the first two games, but he wasn’t able to play in the final two games due to injury.

Veteran Kevin Faulk, who suffered a torn ACL last season, has been on PUP and should open the season on that same list and could be activated if one of the top backs gets injured or is ineffective.

There has been some speculation that Vereen could have been placed on IR or even cut because of his failure to get on the field, but with his speed and versatility, I think he should carve out a role.

The final veteran who could be cut, but should make the roster because of his special teams contributions and versatility is Sammy Morris. Although he’s not much of a threat as a ball carrier, he’s a solid coverage player on kickoffs and punts and has the capability to block and contribute as a short-yardage back.

Roster Prediction: Green-Ellis gets majority of carries, Woodhead is exclusive third-down back, Ridley and Vereen both on active roster, Sammy Morris is lone fullback, Faulk on PUP. Richard Medlin and Eric Kettani cut.

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