Ridley, Vereen shine in opener

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were drafted just one round apart during the 2011 draft, and each is hopeful to increase his offensive role during their sophomore season.

Throughout the early portion of training camp, Ridley has looked the part as the top running back on the Patriots roster, something that was reflected in his taking the field with the starting offense as the Patriots hosted the Saints on Thursday night.

He polished off his evening with eight carries for 40 yards, with a long attempt of 9 yards. It was a positive start for Ridley, but he’s choosing to defer to his coaches when it comes to evaluations.

“There’s going to be improvements that they’re going to ask us to make. ... I think we’re off to an OK start, but I’m not the coaches,” he said. “They’re going to make that decision at the end of the day.”

For now, Ridley remains focused on making the most of his opportunities.

“I mean, I’m just going out there and playing football, man,” he told reporters after his team’s 7-6 win. “You know what I mean, when the coaches call my number you gotta go out and make a play and that’s all I’m really trying to do. There’s really no time to be uncomfortable; you just gotta go out there and make the best of every opportunity that they give you.”

Vereen, who was the last running back to receive a carry for the Patriots on Thursday, which was perhaps an indication of his spot on the depth chart entering the evening, impressed with 11 carries for 64 yards.

Preseason or not, it was a solid step for the 23-year-old, who logged just 15 carries as a rookie in 2011. As for the timing of his entrance into the game, Vereen says that playing special teams in the first half helped to ready him, as did his coaches.

“The coaches do a good job keeping you prepared,” he said. “And they tell you to stay prepared for the whole 60 minutes, and mentally I was prepared."

The performance from each could ramp up the running back competition, which also includes undrafted free agent Brandon Bolden, who carried the ball eight times for 23 yards in his NFL debut.

Competition or not, Vereen says he and Ridley rely on each other as they continue to develop as players.

“I think more importantly than try to one up each other, we try to learn from each other, as far as mistakes, because we both make a ton of mistakes,” Vereen continued. “So we learn from that. If he makes a mistake doing one thing, I’ll know next time on my rep not to make the same mistake and vice versa.”