James White has won over Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and Co., with his steadiness and continued improvement, elevating from a player who was inactive in Super Bowl XLIX to becoming unquestionably the Patriots' go-to guy in the all-important "passing back" role. White played 30 snaps as a rookie in 2014; upped it to 290 in 2015; and played 425 last season.
As for 2017, White is one of three running backs who are considered locks to make the roster based on contract status, along with Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead. Lewis is also likely to be there, while second-year man D.J. Foster has also shown promise.
White has now seized the spot with authority.
Coming off of an injury, Lewis played in 10 games last year, including the playoffs, and averaged 11.1 touches (8.9 carries, 2.2 catches) for 49 yards and 0.2 touchdowns, or 8.3 PPR fantasy points per game. He averaged 17.5 PPG in seven games in 2015, so his role was clearly reduced last year. White's role in the running game is minimal -- what's important is his role in the passing game after Lewis returned. In nine games without Lewis, White averaged 3.7 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD per game. After Lewis returned, White averaged 3.4 catches for 32 yards and 0.33 TD in the nine games leading up to the Super Bowl, so it appears that his passing down role remained mostly unchanged after Lewis returned. Of course, White had a huge performance in the Super Bowl, turning 20 touches (14 catches) into 139 yards and three touchdowns, and it appears that he's now entrenched as the passing down back. The Patriots don't seem inclined to give him as many carries as they would Lewis, though his 4.3 YPC in 2016 was an improvement. White is currently the 50th RB off the board in early MFL10s (PPR drafts), and he's a fantastic value in that format if this report that he has "seized" the passing down role is true. There’s always the chance that the Patriots turn back to Lewis if White gets a case of fumble-itis, but White should have enough leash to overcome a turnover or two.
The five-year veteran, who is best known for his special teams work, has rushed for 845 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also caught 46 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns. During the week leading up to Super Bowl LI, quarterback Tom Brady was highly complimentary of Bolden, who had two special teams tackles during the win.
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But the Pats' reliance on "11 personnel" (3 WR, 1 RB, TE) was not a radical departure from what we have seen in previous games. The idea that the Patriots were using Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett together a ton was not accurate.
The Patriots used three receiver sets with a TE and an RB on 32 snaps and three receiver sets with two RBs and no TE on six snaps. They used a full back with two receivers on 16 snaps and four WRs on eight snaps.
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Vic Carucci reported this first, and it was confirmed by Rapoport. Carucci said Gronk is expected to miss 8 weeks, which finishes his fantasy season, but leaves the door open for a possible late playoffs or Super Bowl return. Martellus Bennett is the obvious beneficiary, but he's dealing with ankle and shoulder injuries of his own. Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcom Mitchell and the pass-catching running backs will all try to pick up the slack.
Losing his top target is a big hit for Tom Brady, but Brady is averaging 23.7 fantasy points in two games without Gronk this season (vs NYJ and SF), on par with his numbers with Gronk.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says his injured knee feels better than it did after last game.
A day after leading New England to a 22-17 win over the New York Jets , Brady said the knee was acting up during the game. But he said he hopes it will be better on Sunday, when the Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams.
It's not known when or how Brady injured the knee. He missed two practices last week because of it but returned to the field on Friday.
The team needed Brady, too. He attempted 50 passes and threw for two TDs in the win over the Jets. Brady should be fine for Sunday but we'll keep an eye on how he does this week.
Both Brady and Gronkowski will play against the Jets despite being questionable coming into this contest. Brady is battling a knee issue so the Pats could run a bit more but Brady is still worth a start in lineups and will be helped by the return of Gronk.
Earlier this week, ESPN's Dianna Russini reported Gronkowski was not expected to play against the Jets. On Saturday, Russini reported Gronkowski "made a lot of progress in the last 24-48 hours" and cited two sources who referred to him as a "true game-time decision."
Gronkowski had been a limited participant in practice all week and is officially listed as questionable. Reporters saw him wearing a red noncontact jersey at the end of Friday's practice.
Gronkowski sustained the chest injury in a 31-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 13. He missed the next week of practice and didn't make the trip last weekend to San Francisco.
Since Tom Brady's Week 5 return, the Pats have a 55-percent pass, 45-percent run balance. In only one game, the Week 6 win over Cincinnati, did the Patriots throw the ball on 60 percent of their snaps.
Compare that with 2015, when, including the playoffs, the Pats had nine games with at least a 60 percent pass/40 percent run disparity. And in five of those games, they had splits of at least 70 percent pass/30 percent run. The one-dimensional offense was great...until Denver neutralized it and the Pats did not have another dimension to visit.
This year, LeGarrette Blount is on pace for 322 carries, which would rank as the third-most in a single season by any Patriots running back, topped only by Curtis Martin in 1995 (368 carries) and Corey Dillon in 2004 (345 carries). Dion Lewis' return could decrease Blount's individual workload, but there is no reason to believe the team's rushing averages — 29.8 attempts per game — will change.
The 2015 Patriots offense, prolific as it was, had less balance than any New England offense in the Belichick-Brady era. The Pats threw on 62 percent of their offensive snaps and ran on 38 percent, the story said. Blount hasn't lost fantasy value since Brady's return this year and perhaps this is a way of helping prolong Brady's career in the long term. In the short term, Brady is dealing with a knee injury so it doesn't seem likely the team breaks away from the current split.
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