Earlier this week, minicamp started and minicamp ended. This means that the mandatory phase of the New England Patriots' offseason workouts is over as well – at least until training camp starts in late July. Until then, we have re-entered the quiet parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at running back James White.
Name: James White
Position: Running back
Jersey number: 28
Size: 5'10, 205 lbs.
2015 review: James White, a 2014 fourth round draft pick, had his best professional season in 2015. However, he only started to see regular playing time after fellow running back Dion Lewis suffered a season-ending injury in week 9.
Prior to Lewis' ACL tear, White played only 12.2% of New England's offensive snaps and touched the ball a mere 14 times: he attempted seven rushes for 15 yards and caught seven passes for 52 yards. After week 9, White became the Patriots' primary receiving back – and his numbers started to reflect his new role.
Despite his slow start, White finished the season with 31.1% of the Patriots' offensive snaps played. He appeared in 16 games (14 in the regular season, two in the playoffs) and ended up catching 47 passes for 494 yards and four touchdowns, while also carrying the football 28 times for 72 yards and two scores.
His numbers were not spectacular and he was far more dangerous as a pass catcher than he was as a runner, but White was a solid depth option and grew more confident and productive over the course of the season.
2016 preview: Despite a serviceable 2015 season, White needs to fight for his spot on the roster. While the Patriots added only two outside running backs this offseason – free agent Donald Brown and undrafted rookie D.J. Foster – the 24-year old needs to outperform both of them over the course of the summer to keep his job.
One way of doing that is to improve as a ball carrier. White averaged only 2.57 yards per carry last season and was no consistent threat when handed the football. If he is able to do that and become more two-dimensional than he was last year, he has good chances of earning one of the projected two spots as New England's receiving back (with the other belong to Dion Lewis).
However, if he isn't, then Brown or Foster could take over that role. White would still be eligible to stick around on the practice squad and work as a valuable insurance option. Considering his 2015 season, though, any scenario that does not have him as a member of the Patriots' 53-man roster would be a minor disappointment – but, frankly, no major surprise.
James White is the frontrunner to earn a roster spot as the Patriots' number two receiving back behind Dion Lewis' given his experience within the offense. If he can take advantage of this and build on his 2015 campaign, he should find himself on the team.
However, it would also not be a surprise to see White lose his roster spot to one of the running backs brought in earlier this offseason. In short: he needs to earn his spot on the 2016 Patriots with good practice performances in the upcoming weeks.