James White will have a chance to shine for Patriots in Week 1
With Dion Lewis sidelined with a knee injury, James White will continue where he left off last season.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots will have their hands full in his first NFL start facing a very talented Cardinal defense. With a strong pass rush and a defensive backfield filled with ball hawks, the Arizona defense is loaded with many ways to stop an opposing offense. I expect Arizona to be physical at the line of scrimmage with bump-and-run coverage daring Garoppolo to fit it into smaller windows. With that, Josh McDaniels will get the passing game going by throwing it to targets that are off the line and in the backfield. James White will be the running back in during passing situations. With Blount struggling in early downs last season, White may get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.
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With a corner on Edelman and a safety focused on Gronkowski, there will be many times where James White will be covered by a linebacker. This is the exact matchup the Patriots want. Not only does it benefit the passing game and help open things up downfield in the passing game but it will help Garoppolo get into a groove against a strong defense.
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The best way the coaches can help Garoppolo is by getting guys in space to have wider and easier passing lanes. Edelman’s value comes from his timing with Brady. Gronkowski often has guys all over him but is able to make plays due to ball placement. Looking at what Coach McDaniels was able to do with Dion Lewis and James White out of the backfield generated much more space than anyone else in the passing attack.
When defenses focus on the other top Patriot targets, a linebacker will have to cover James White in all situations unless the defense is in dime. If Arizona shows dime coverage consistently, New England should be able to run the ball with ease but don’t expect that to happen unless New England is trailing by multiple scores.
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White scored six touchdowns in the second half of the 2015 season and stepped up when the Patriots were slammed with injuries. Expect New England to go to White early and often in the passing game to attempt to spread the field and make the Arizona defense tackle the Patriots ball carriers in space.