News broke on Wednesday that the Patriots agreed to terms with running back James White, allowing the team to keep the running back they drafted in 2014. White has been a do-it-all back for New England; excelling in the passing game while also being used in the run game and pass protecting at a high level. The retention of White is a major victory for New England. White has been an under-appreciated but integral part of the team’s success since he took over for Shane Vereen in 2015.
White began primarily as a 3rd Down or passing back, but his role grew quickly and by Super Bowl 51 White was a key piece of the Patriots offense. In that Super Bowl, White could easily have been named the MVP instead of Tom Brady. He had 139 all-purpose yards, three touchdowns and one two-point conversion. White is famous for also scoring the game winning touchdown in overtime, a play in which he had to fight to get into the end zone to secure the Patriots’ fifth championship.
White has caught at least 49 passes in every season since 2016. He had nearly 6 yards per carry on rushes in 2018 and 4.5 in 2019. His 2018 Divisional Round playoff performance against the Chargers would go down as his best playoff game if not for his heroics two years earlier.
White is the type of player that the Patriots have “saved” for the postseason in the past by reducing his role at times during the season. That in itself tells how valuable he is to the offense.
Going forward, the Patriots will likely have a tight end and run-centric offense with Cam Newton at quarterback. White will be a major part of that. Things did not mesh as well as hopes in 2020, but with an improved set of pass catchers around him and an improved, if still average, Newton, White’s numbers and role will bounce back.