The Patriots signing Ezekiel Elliott may have surprised some around the NFL, but Super Bowl 51 hero James White revealed that it was actually one of the least shocking moves he could have imagined heading into this season.
While appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, the former New England running back was asked about the news of Elliott's signing, and he shared a tidbit of information that most of us were (obviously) not privy to; Bill Belichick has had his eye on Elliott from afar for years now.
"I know Bill Belichick has talked about some of the best backs in the league, and I know he’s a big fan of Zeke. Whenever we would compete against (the Cowboys), he would always talk about how much he wanted to have him on his roster."
Considering where he was drafted in 2016 and how consistently well he performed with the Cowboys, hearing that Belichick was a long-time admirer of Elliott is not the least bit surprising. What is, however, is the fact that the head actually pulled the trigger and got a player he's wanted on the roster over the years, something he is not known for doing well, if at all.
It wasn't a deal that was thought to get done after the failure to sign DeAndre Hopkins earlier this summer. His addition to the offense would've been significant, especially as questions about the receiving corps continue. But the move to bring in another versatile weapon like Elliott helps take the sting out of the loss of Hopkins.
Because the signing has had many concerned over the status of Rhamondre Stevenson on the team and in Belichick's eyes, White was also asked how he thinks Elliott will pair with the third-year running back and if they will make a difference to the offensive success this upcoming season.
"Rhamondre Stevenson is going to be the lead guy, the bell cow guy, but obviously Zeke is a proven veteran. He may not have the 1,500/1,600 rushing yards like his first few years in the league with that Dallas offensive line, but he can still be a very productive back. He’s great in the red zone, so I’m sure they’ll use him in the running game there. He’s great on third down and picking up blitzes, so I think he’ll have a huge impact when it comes to that."
Adding Elliott was a needed move, not because Stevenson is incapable of handling the backfield alone, but because there's no way a team can rely solely on one running back for the entire 18-week season.
With his rise in the passing game allowing Mac Jones to utilize him more on game day, Stevenson carried the entire load for the running backs, being on the field for 65% of all offensive snaps. By season's end, he was exhausted, rightfully so. Elliott provides a reliable complementary piece for Stevenson to get off the field more or even be used as a receiver more if needed.
Not to mention, Elliott and Stevenson may have become the best running back tandem in the entire league and we haven't even seen them work together yet.
Hearing excitement about the signing from a well-respected player like White makes Elliott's addition even more thrilling. It will undoubtedly be one aspect of the offense that many fans will actually be looking forward to watching this season, which isn't something that could have been said a few days ago.