Patriots

McDaniels optimistic about White’s ascent

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McDaniels optimistic about White’s ascent

What Dion Lewis did in the first half of this season won’t fade anytime soon. He reeled off at least one “Did you see that?” move per game and ripped off plays like the touchdown in Dallas that very few NFL players active or retired could have pulled off. And I’ve watched a lot of football.

So the Patriots will now be playing without a player who was – and I hope I’m not overstating it – doing things that people hadn’t seen before.

On a conference call Tuesday, Bill Belichick addressed the news, saying, “It’s obviously a tough break for Dion. Dion has worked really hard and he’s had a really productive spring, camp and helped our football team a lot – great attitude, great worker, great kid. Hopefully he’ll have a good recovery and we’ll get him back.”
 
Meanwhile, the guy who does the job Lewis was doing is James White.

The second-year running back from Wisconsin has 16 carries and 12 catches in his career. He spent 2014 behind Shane Vereen and this year behind Lewis. He’s a player that’s smart, knows where he’s supposed to be, has natural hands and good speed. My gripe with his game is that he went down a little too easily as a rookie. He came back bulked up this year and showed glimpses of being able to run through contact a little more. He’ll also – once he gets some confidence – be able to show whether he can string moves together and be more elusive than he’s shown.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is optimistic.

“James is a very consistent guy,” he explained. “He comes to work. He's got a great attitude and approach, is always prepared to go in and fulfill any of the roles that we have for our backs. He's a dependable guy. He can handle a lot of different assignments, and then when we've needed him to play this season, he's certainly been a guy who has done a decent job in blitz pickup. He's caught the football well out of the backfield, and then he's made yards with it when he's had it in his hands.

“James is a guy who continues to get better,” he added. “Hopefully his best football is in front of him. You know, he's still a young player, has only been in our system for a year and a half here I think. And going forward, whatever his role is, I'm sure James will be prepared, and will give our team everything he has. So I really like his approach and his mentality, and he's got a maturity about him that I really feel good about. He'll have an opportunity now to step in there and play a little bit more with Dion’s situation.”

How much more will depend on what White does with the reps he gets. It would be unrealistic to think he’ll do what Lewis did or we would have seen indications of it by now.

Can he be adequate to good? We will find out.

More WR trouble for Patriots: Dorsett helped off field at practice

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More WR trouble for Patriots: Dorsett helped off field at practice

The Patriots already-thin wide receiver group appeared to take another hit Tuesday when Phillip Dorsett had to be helped off the field during an 11-on-11 period at practice. 

Dorsett went down late in the practice following an 11-on-11 rep when he ran a route over the middle of the field. After hitting the turf -- I didn't see if he was hit or if he went down on his own -- a defensive player immediately called for help. Dorsett was eventually helped off the field by two staffers and made his way directly to the blue medical tent parked on the back of the practice fields. When he emerged, he got a hug from team chaplain/character coach Jack Easterby. Nick Caserio later came by to give Dorsett a pat on the back. After a few moments, Dorsett put his helmet back on and caught passes from an equipment assistant. He did not leave the field until the session was finished, walking off on his own. 

He gave a thumbs up as he made his way down the stairs toward the stadium and got into a cart that took him into the tunnel. Moments later, Dorsett was back on the field, spending time in the friends and family area before going back down the stairs to the stadium a second time.  

The Patriots - who've been without Kenny Britt, parted ways with Malcolm Mitchell and Jordan Matthews and been without Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater in portions of camp -- can ill afford to lose another wideout. Dorsett had a strong start to camp, which Tom Brady noted following Tuesday's work, and looked like the No. 2 receiver behind Chris Hogan for the first month of the season with Julian Edelman out the first four games serving a PED suspension. 

In Dorsett's absence, Hogan, Riley McCarron and Eric Decker seemed to see a bump in repetitions. Hogan was tired enough after practice that he hopped on the same cart Dorsett rode for a lift into the locker room area. 

When he met the media after practice Tuesday, quarterback Tom Brady spoke about Dorsett's injury.

"You never like to see it and everyone wanted to go over to see how he was doing because he's been doing so well in the spring and in training camp," Brady said. "Hopefully he's OK. I certainly hope he is. He has a great opportunity ahead of him. I hope he takes advantage of it."

Dorsett, in his fourth year out of Miami, was acquired early last season from the Indianapolis Colts in a trade for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He had 12 catches for 194 yards last season in 15 games. 

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Decker may get benefit of the doubt early on as he transitions to Patriots offense

Decker may get benefit of the doubt early on as he transitions to Patriots offense

FOXBORO -- It's been well-documented. Eric Decker had a rough early portion of practice on Monday. He dropped a pass in one-on-ones. He dropped two more in a side session with Tom Brady. 

He wasn't thrilled with himself. He punched his own helmet. He hung his head briefly. 

During the session, in response to a tweet from NESN's Doug Kyed, former NFL receiver Andrew Hawkins (who had a brief stay with the Patriots last year) tried to shed some light on what exactly Decker is going through at the moment as the new guy in town. 

Some players never fully grasp what they're being told and never get the chance to play at full speed. Decker, who has some background in the offense thanks to his time under Josh McDaniels in Denver, says he's getting close. But Monday's start was a sign he was still a ways off.

Bill Belichick said on Tuesday that it's his job to properly assess the mistakes made by a player in transition.

"I think you always have to account for the transition of a player who joins your team at some point during the season, training camp, midseason, whatever it is," he explained. "I don't think there's any set formula on that. Just evaluate it, engage it. The more time you have, the easier it is to make the right decision."

Decker finished Monday with a handful of catches in the 11-on-11 period, including one deep down the sideline with corner Jonathan Jones on him tight. That sort of bounce-back didn't surprise Decker, but both he and the team know that there's only a limited number of opportunities for him left before they have to make a decision as to whether or not he deserves a roster spot. 

"The more you know about the player and his fit on the team, his role, so forth, how well he can do, sometimes that takes time," Belichick said. "We only have the time we have. Whatever it is, it is. Just have to make the most of it. [We] would like to have more in all situations, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you have to make a decision with less information than you'd like to have."

The subject of Decker came up when Brady met the media at camp later Tuesday.

"I've watched him play a lot of football over the years," Brady said. "He's always been on great offenses. He's got to use his skill set, the one he's learned and used for a long time. He knows how to get open. Now, it's just about learning about what we do and how we do it. 

"He's worked hard. He's been out here every day. You can tell he's a real pro and hopefully, he can add something to the group." 

Decker should be able to provide the Patriots with more information on Thursday night against the Eagles. He played just six snaps against Washington last week but could be in line for more in preseason game No. 2. That may mean more reps with Brady. The quarterback told reporters at camp Tuesday that he plans to play in that game.

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