When looking at the New England Patriots offense from a glance this season, it’s obvious to see the team has struggled to move the ball at times.
With whom do the Patriots have the most success with? It’s an obvious answer and it’s running back James White.
Whether it’s moving the ball in short-yardage situations, looking for check-down options in the pass, or just needing someone to set a block in the backfield, White has answered the call when it’s most needed this season.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been given the playing time he deserves and got on most occasions last season. White’s numbers have not been indicative of his quality of play this season, either. In 2019, he’s averaged 3.3 yards per carry, over a full yard lower than last year and 0.7 yards lower than his career average.
In a receiving role, he has also seen a dip in production and is on pace to finish with 100 fewer yards than he had last year. Plain and simple, the Patriots haven’t been using him as much as they should be. But that’s on track to change down the stretch, and it starts with New England’s Sunday night matchup with Houston this week.
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James White Matchup vs Houston
In addition to struggling in coverage against tight ends, Houston has had trouble covering running backs out of the backfield in passing packages. While running backs may not rack up huge totals in receiving yards, they’re able to produce enough offense to be effective.
Last year against Houston, White had four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, playing in 48 percent of offensive snaps. White had to contest with a fully healthy Houston defensive front as well, making his numbers a little more impressive.
Without J.J. Watt on the line to disrupt Tom Brady and the short passing game, New England could look to use White as a means of exploiting zone coverage by Houston. If Houston goes into man coverage, White’s matchup on a linebacker or defensive end in the flat could mean even bigger numbers for the Patriots’ running back.
Should You Start James White vs Houston
Last week against Dallas, despite the Cowboys’ true struggles covering running backs in passing schemes, the Patriots stayed away from throwing to running backs for most of the game. It was an inexplicable tactic crafted by the offense and one that resulted in very little production as a whole.
And for whatever reason, New England has favored Sony Michel as its pass-catching running back over proven options like White or Rex Burkhead. If New England starts going back to White in the pass, it will give the Texans a different look and almost force one safety to play down in order to help contain the backfield receiver.
This could be the week when James White emerges as a true weapon for this Patriots team down the stretch and starting him as a flex will benefit fantasy owners considerably.