Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis... these are the big names that everyone in Patriots Nation views as the keys to the team's success pursuant to that fourth, elusive title. We could also discuss the contributions of Jerod Mayo, Stevan Ridley, and Julian Edelman who all made huge impacts for the team in an otherwise disappointing 2013.
The team was soundly stocked with talent across the roster leading up to the draft, but one player was added who will stand head and shoulders above the rest when they take the field in a few short weeks.
While I am as excited as the rest of the fans to see what Dominique Easley can do on the front line, along with second year beast Jamie Collins, I see great things happening very early in the season in the backfield for Bill Belichick. I am, of course, referring to James White, the fourth round draft choice out of Wisconsin.
White joins a very talented committee of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. Ridley, as we all know, is a perennial 1,000 yard rusher who can frequently find the endzone, if he can keep control of the football.
Shane Vereen is your typical double-threat, having his greatest success in the passing game and as a change-of-pace back with good speed and agility. Brandon Bolden is a tough runner, good at breaking short-yardage situations into big plays. He, too, has a slight fumbling issue, and could be a casualty based on competition. Bolden has to be concerned for good reason.
Let's look at the competition all the backs face:
James White is a versatile back in his own right. He eclipsed 1,000 yards twice in his college career. But two other facts make him a serious candidate for the third, or possibly even second spot on the depth chart.
White, like Vereen, is a threat out of the back field in passing situations. He scored three TDs his last two years at Wisconsin, gradually increasing his yardage totals through the air from 88 his freshman year to 300 his senior year. All this while averaging over six yards per carry on the ground for three out of his four years on the team.
He is obviously a very effective runner, amassing these totals while operating out of a committee style backfield similar to what New England employs. And part of that committee was emerging star Montee Ball, now with the Denver Broncos. He seems to be familiar with this scenario, having played alongside Giovani Bernard in high school, where he also ran for over 1,000 yards his senior year.
This is exactly why Belichick likes this guy. And it is this versatility that will earn him a spot and catapult him into prominence early in his career in the NFL. Not even the incumbent No. 1 runner can afford to take White's presence lightly. Fumblitis could signal a changing of the guard in the Patriots' backfield.
But the body of work speaks for itself; James White will be a force in Belichick's backfield on his own merits and hard work. BB would have it no other way. All signs from colllege and training camp point to his success in short order.