Bill Belichick found an interesting way Tuesday to praise James White’s football IQ.

Asked to explain how White has developed since joining the New England Patriots in 2014, Belichick said the running back’s growth has been evident in the way he asks questions.

“He’s always been a very hard worker, a very diligent guy, knows his assignments very, very well,” the Patriots coach said on a conference call with reporters. “He asks questions like a coach would ask them. He has the ability to think really far ahead of what problems could occur on certain fronts or looks or what have you. He does a great job of that. Always has, but as he’s gained more experience, he just knows more and is able to continue to push that ahead.”

That’s a trait Belichick clearly values and one many of the Patriots’ longest-tenured players possess. In the same response, Belichick also praised quarterback Tom Brady, safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and special teams aces Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner for their approach to the mental side of the game.

“They start off good and just kind of keep going,” Belichick said. “And as they learn more and experience more, they’re able to process more and do more, and James has done that. He works very hard in the offseason, works hard in season, works hard off the field, on the field, knows what his assignments and responsibilities are and does his very best to carry them out. You can’t ask for any more than that.”

Belichick was asked to explain exactly what “asking questions like a coach” entails.

“Well, if you were talking to another coach about a play, the coach would think ahead to ‘what are the problems that could come up on this?’ ” he said. ” ‘If they do this, if they do that, if they do something else — what if this guy lines up here instead of there?’ And those are the kind of things that a player like all the ones I just mentioned (think about).

“They ask those same kinds of questions. It’s not just, ‘What’s my assignment?’ It’s ‘OK, well, what if these other things happen? How do we handle it?’ … I think when you talk to a coach about a play, that’s the way a coach looks at it. He sees the whole play, sees all the issues.”

A key offensive weapon for the Patriots in recent years, White currently is putting together one of the best seasons ever by a pass-catching running back. He’s racked up 45 receptions for 380 yards and six touchdowns through seven games, putting him on pace to set NFL records for catches and receiving touchdowns by a running back.

White also is the first back in NFL history to catch 45 passes and six touchdown passes in his team’s first seven games.

“Since the day he got here, all he’s done is work his butt off in every area of being a professional football player,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “… There’s not many guys that we’ve had that have done it to the level he’s done it, and we’ve got a lot of great guys that we can talk about.”

Thumbnail photo via Quinn Harris/USA TODAY Sports Images