Should Patriots Reduce James White’s Workload Over Final Six Games?

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November 21, 2018

FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots running back James White on Tuesday admitted he’s feeling his increased workload 10 games into the 2018 season “a little bit.”

White has already set career highs in, well, basically everything this season: catches, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, carries, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, touches and yards from scrimmage.

So it’s not a big surprise that increased volume has taken a slight toll on the third-down back.

“But just go out there and take care of your body,” White said Tuesday. “I still play hard no matter how I’m feeling. Everybody’s hurting at this point. Just go out there and compete and give it everything you have, and just make sure I’m available out there.”

White injured his knee midway through the Patriots’ Week 9 win over the Green Bay Packers and didn’t look like himself after returning to that game. He caught just five passes and carried the ball once in the Patriots’ Week 10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. So, the Patriots’ Week 11 bye week provided some much-needed rest.

“I think it came at a great time and guys came back chomping at the bit,” White said. “It’ll be good to try and get a tough divisional win on the road (against the New York Jets).”

White could see more respite over the final six weeks of the season. Running back Sony Michel is healthy, and Rex Burkhead is set to come off injured reserve in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings. Michel should take carries away from White, and Burkhead could spell White on the ground and through the air.

White will still have a big role down the stretch, since the Patriots are 7-3, have yet to clinch a playoff spot and are fighting for postseason seeding. But it would be smart for New England to give White some plays off. He’s been on the field for 415 snaps in 10 games, which is already just short of a career-high 426 snaps in 2016. He’s played 60.2 percent of offensive snaps. His career high came in 2017 with 39 percent of snaps.

There’s a good reason White is feeling it. He’s playing a ton as the centerpiece of the Patriots’ offense, but New England can’t afford any more injury scares with their most dependable passing target.

Both Michel and Burkhead are, historically, bigger injury risks than White. But White is more valuable. And sure, he is the same player who once touched the ball 260 times in a single college season. So, he should be able to handle a bigger workload. But the Patriots might as well save the 18-touch games until the games really, really matter while Michel and Burkhead are still healthy enough to provide White a breather every once in a while.

Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images
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