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.
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.
Aug 01, 2016 · 10:05 AM EDT
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could be getting some star-studded help when he works out during his suspension over the first four weeks of the regular season.
According to former teammate Kevin Faulk, he expects Brady to reach out to both Wes Welker and Randy Moss, the receivers who helped him form some of the most dominant offenses in NFL history.
"He's definitely going to work," Faulk said in a segment airing on NESN. "There's no doubt in my mind. He's probably going to do the same regimen he's been doing for the last how many years he's been playing football, stay in that routine, and yes, I'm almost positive Wes Welker is going to be here. He probably will reach out to Randy (Moss), and Randy will come because Randy's in still good shape. Real good shape."
Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss on RB Stevan Ridley: "He is an error repeater, but there is always a fine line to walk there. Former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, for example, was an error repeater earlier in his career when it came to ball security. The Patriots stuck with him and were rewarded for it. I think the question becomes: Do we still see some upside here or has the error repeating reached a point where there's no turning back? I still think it's the former and it helps that he doesn't have a big contract to absorb ($777,750)."
Rookie James White could press Ridley if he starts to fumble the ball again. Brandon Bolden is also a capable (yet uninspiring) replacement should Ridley's butterfingers re-emerge.
I think there are a few layers to consider when it comes to Stevan Ridley.
First, I'd be shocked if they released him. He is a good runner working through a ball-security issue, which is similar to what Kevin Faulk faced early in his Patriots career. We saw him overcome it, so I don't think we're at an end-of-the-road type situation with Ridley.
I'd expect to see more of a rotation with Ridley, LeGarrette Blount (also a ball-security risk) and Brandon Bolden in that big-back role. The Patriots are deep at the position with those three, plus Shane Vereen, so I don't see any personnel additions.
Beat writer Mike Reiss said the days of Ridley seeing half the snaps are likely over, at least for the short term. It's unfortunately because Ridley has run well before fumbling and getting benched. For at least this week, Ridley can't be trusted in your lineup in what is likely an important game with playoff implications. In fact, of all the NE backs, Vereen is probably the only safe play here - at least until we see how this week vs. Houston plays out.