Is Shane Vereen finally coming into his own?
"That's the good thing about the preseason games -- you get a chance to evaluate skill players," [said Bill Belichick.] "Can you tackle them? You can simulate more of the line contact in practice, but the tackling of the skill players and them being able to not get tackled or get tackled, it's a better picture in the game. He did a good job."

Vereen's late-game carries against the Chiefs last year were an afterthought to many, the work coming at the end of a blowout victory. But if he continues to play like he did Thursday, and carries over his strong work catching the ball in practice, he will almost certainly be on the field in more meaningful situations in 2012.

He feels he's a different player now, further along mentally in addition to physically. Part of what drew the Patriots to Vereen (5-foot-9, 205 pounds) in the first place was his smarts, and how he played in a pro-style offense at Cal, so it was a little easier for them to project Vereen to their offense. They ask a lot of their running backs -- arguably as much, if not more, than any other team in the NFL.
Shane Vereen. Very smooth again. Just looked fast and comfortable on the reps he got, particularly in the passing game.

The big difference for Vereen this year is that he's healthy and has been able to stay on the field. However, it was worrisome when it looked like undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden had already passed him on the depth chart.

It's easy to forget that Vereen was actually one of the Patriots highest draft picks in 2011, taken with their second second round pick. At Cal, Vereen played behind Jahvid Best and took over his starting gig when he left to be drafted by the Detroit Lions.

We haven't seen very much of Vereen, but what should be encouraging is that nearly everything we've seen in a game has been good. I remember being very impressed with Vereen's performance in that Kansas City game, in which he had eight rushes for 39 yards and a touchdown and a longest run of 19 yards.

In the last pre-season game Vereen had a similar performance, coming out as the team's leading rusher with 11 carries for 64 yards, the longest one 18 yards.

Sure, this could just mean that the second year back is the king of garbage time, but it at least means he deserves a closer look in the coming pre-season games. Can he replicate that sort of performance against the first team? I'd be interested to find out.