242 of his 297 snaps have come in the passing game either as a receiver or pass blocker. He will get the occasional draw out of shotgun but that is not where his primary threat lies. Vereen is used as an extra receiver quite a bit. He is motioned out of the backfield, and the Patriots like to stack him with another receiver to create some picks and some more room for him to work with.
Overall his greatest value is in short-yardage to convert situations (3-5 yards). Let's take a look at how he was used this past week against the Colts.
On this play we're right in that 3-5 range on 3rd down. Vereen initially starts in the backfield. Do you see what Brady sees? The linebacker to that side is within the tackle box with no other defender to take Vereen. He motions him wide stacked behind Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins is going to pick or take his man upfield leaving the flat clear for Vereen. This play goes for a dozen.
This is completely in the WILL. Vereen would most likely be his man anyway. Once he flexes out he has to keep position. You see he has to cross the field just to try and make the tackle. Regardless, good recognition by Brady, and good design with the pick.
Here the Colts learn from their mistake and get a body on him. Same concept. Motioned out from the backfield. Instead of a pick play, Vereen is going to run Bronco Mike's favorite route the "whip route" and he beats his man like a red headed step child. Problem is Brady gets scared by his own shadow misfires incomplete.
Pay attention to this one, this is a Patriot favorite and you might see this concept at least 2-3 times per game, especially in the redzone. Vereen will be motioned and stacked to the inside of the split receiver on the left. That man will once again block and take his defender out of the equation. Just like last time Vereen will run to the flat like in our first example, except this time he turns this bluff into a wheel route. The wheel route with Vereen, even Ridley is pretty common in the Patriot offense. He is wide open but once again Brady derps the throw incomplete. Perfect call against Cover 1. Had he completed the ball it would have been a big gain.
Trickery/More of the Same
The Patriots will be creative with their alignments at times. Here Edelman is lined up in the backfield and Vereen is split wide. He will come into motion again and stack to the inside of the other receiver. Still a designed pick, but this time it is a WR screen. The pass is high which makes Vereen jump for it. If not for this momentary hesitation, the play might go for a larger gain.
Do you see the pattern by now? Stack, pick, repeat.
Hey! We've seen this before!
This is a bit of a blast from the past from the old 49er days. Pro-set formation with two backs split in the backfield. Sprint right option with Hooman and the FB getting blocks on the edge as Brady rolls out. Similar concept as a pick except they actually run a legit route this time with a go up the sideline. Clears out the flat for Vereen BUT WAIT HE RUNS THE OLD FLAT/WHEEL DOUBLE MOVE! The safety steps up and takes on the coverage, and does not get fooled by the double move. I think Brady ends up throwing it away.
What we know
In one single game, when the Patriots didn't pass the ball all that much, I found five unique plays most of which on 3rd down featured Shane Vereen as the primary target. They used a variety of tactics to get him open, most of which depended on stacking receivers and creating some pick action either with the route design or by good old fashioned blatant blocking. We see him split as a WR, brought into motion, and motioned out from the backfield. his favorite routes are the flat or wheel routes and off of that combinations that create double moves. This is quite an extensive package of plays for one player which brings me to my next point.
The Pats can be predictable
Shane Vereen 24 snaps, 5 run, 19 pass
Stevan ridley 23 snaps, 14 run, 5 pass
LeGarrette Blount 27 snaps, 24 run, 1 pass
These are the totals from last game. Bottom line, the Broncos can use these tendencies to figure out how they will defense each of these players. Generally speaking, if Blount is in the game he will run it. If Ridley is in the game they are far more likely to run it than pass. If Shane Vereen is in there, you best believe he will be playing the role of receiver.
Will Bill change this around all that much to create confusion? Always a possibility, but these players are also used in these ways because of their skillsets. You do not want to put players in unfamiliar situations too much for the sake of trickery.
What the Broncos need to do to limit Vereen
Very confident that Danny Trevathan can cover one on one the entire game. With the lack of a real receiving threat from the TE position you can get Woodyard and a safety to bracket if necessary.
Broncos need to be aware that he will always be a primary target when he is in the game. You beat the pick/press plays through study and communication. Something other teams have down well in spurts against the Broncos is limiting those pick concepts by smartly passing receivers off between defenders to minimize the geometric advantage gained from spacing. It takes communication and knowledge, but if a guy like me can spend minimal time spotting these things, the players should be able to recognize them as well.
Funny to think that a 3rd down back is a legitimate #1 WR in an offense, but in the Patriots case, it is what it is.