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New England Patriots 2019 roster breakdown: #28 RB James White

White is entering 2019 coming off the best season of his career.

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Chargers v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts in late July, currently have 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.

Today, the series continues with one of New England’s most important offensive skill position players.

Name: James White

Position: Running back

Jersey number: 28

Age: 27

Experience: 5

Size: 5’10, 205 lbs.

2018 review: James White was already a reliable weapon in New England’s offensive arsenal from 2015, when he took over as the Patriots’ top receiving back, to 2017. 2018, however, saw the former third-round draft pick take his game to a new level and produce by far the best statistical season of his career. When all was said and done, White had 1,354 yards from scrimmage on his résumé as well as 12 total touchdowns.

The first-year team captain was particularly outstanding over the first half of the season. With the Patriots’ wide receiver corps in flux due to Julian Edelman’s four-game suspension and the offseason departures of Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, White stepped up as quarterback Tom Brady’s number one target to open the year — a role that did only slightly change with Edelman returning off his suspension in week five.

After all, White again proved himself to be a trustworthy pass catcher out of the backfield capable of finding the soft spots in zone coverage and challenging linebackers in man-to-man schemes. As such, the versatile back averaged 6.6 receptions and 56.2 receiving yards until New England’s week eleven bye. On top of it all, he also was active as a true ball carrier — something that was not always the case over the first four years of his career.

And even though White’s numbers dropped a bit after the bye week, he still finished the 2018 regular season with some outstanding numbers. Appearing in all sixteen of the Patriots’ games and playing 53.6% of the team’s offensive snaps (600 of 1,119), the Wisconsin product registered 87 catches for 751 yards and 7 touchdowns. Furthermore, White carried the football 94 times for 425 yards and 5 additional scores.

All of those numbers — from playing time to statistics — were career-bests for the running back, and ranked him among the most productive backfield players in all of football particularly when it came to catching the football: White ranked first league-wide in receiving touchdown, second in yards, and third in catches. Once again, he was one of the NFL’s most productive pass catchers period and as such a key member of the Patriots’ aerial attack.

White’s productivity continued in the playoffs. While he failed to reach the end zone for the first time since the 2015 postseason, he did set new career-marks in catches (20), receiving yards (151) and yards from scrimmage (178) — all while being on the field for 98 of the Patriots’ 252 postseason snaps (38.9%). All in all, he was outstanding in 2018 and proved himself to be one of the most dangerous receiving backs in the league.

2019 preview: With the Patriots’ receiving corps in a state of turnover again this season — gone are Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson — White’s 2019 could look a lot like his 2018 campaign: he will be a core player within New England’s offensive attack and a reliable target for Tom Brady, especially early on during the year. But even when the unit as a whole starts to come together, White’s contributions will remain consistent.

After all, he is one of the best role-specific running backs in all of football. The 27-year-old will therefore be used on all three downs once more, serving primarily in the passing game, on third downs, and in up-tempo situations like two-minute drills. He will be on the field for 35-50% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps again and register regular touches while seeing plenty of action as a pass protector as well — something he did admirably in 2018.

He will get his fair share of opportunities even though the team also has Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel under contract and added Damien Harris to the mix in round three of this year’s draft. After all, White is New England’s most experienced and proven backfield player and has shown time and again in the past that he can produce even when used in more of a rotational role alongside a similarly-skilled Burkhead.

White, Burkhead, Michel and Harris form one of the NFL’s deepest running back groups and White’s role on it seems clear; it will once again turn him into one of the team-leaders in touches and yards from scrimmage. And while it would be a surprise to see the veteran back earn individual accolades because of his performance, he will be a key cog in New England’s offensive machinery once again.