FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots are getting ready to go up against one of the best running teams in the NFL and one of the league’s best running backs in the Texans’ Arian Foster.
So preparing for that type of talent, even the second time around, requires simulation in practice so the defense is adequately prepared. The Texans are 8-0 this season when Foster rushes for 100 yards or more, and Foster gained 140 in last weekend’s wild-card win over the Bengals.
The Patriots have relied on the running backs, including Shane Vereen, to emulate Foster during practice.
“I know what type of style, what type of runner he is,” Vereen said. “As another running back, you pay attention to the other running backs in the league. It’s not easy trying to mimic somebody else. But you do the best you can for the team.”
Vereen was the first player mentioned by coach Bill Belichick when talking about preparing for the deceptive Foster. Belichick said his backs have handled the job.
“Shane, Woody [Danny Woodhead], Stevan [Ridley], Brandon Bolden, all of them, those guys have good vision, they can run,” Belichick said on Wednesday. “They’re different than Foster but it’s close enough, certainly good enough, for our defense to work against. Those guys make good cuts, they see holes well. I think our backs do a good job giving us the look on the scout team in the running game.
“I think it’s harder actually to simulate, to get all the offensive linemen – it doesn’t matter who you play – it’s usually harder to get them too, to get the blocking schemes kind of exactly the way the other team does it.
“It’s probably easier for the runner than the overall blocking patterns, depending on how each team does it during the week. You have to try to get all those guys coordinated.”
For Vereen, simulating Foster is about showing off the patience and the initial burst that has made the Texan such a prominent player.
“Open-field wise, we’re two completely different players,” Vereen said. “So when it gets to the open field, my kind of running style takes over. But as far as run reads and stuff, I try to do him.”
Vereen is still working his way back up the snap-count ladder after a fumble against the 49ers in Week 15 that got him benched. In the playoffs, his playing time will surely be determined by the amount of trust he’s built with the coaching staff.
“It comes with it,” Vereen said. “You gotta be able to build the trust. They gotta be able to trust you to put you out there. I mean, I understand it. If I was the coach, I’d do the same thing.”