McCarthy: Patriots need more James White, less Sony Michel

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By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com

Following last year's Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions, Tom Brady publicly stated the Patriots needed to use James White more in the offense.

The team listened and the results were immediate.

White became one of the biggest weapons at Brady's disposal in 2018, hauling in a team-high 94 catches. He helped jump-start an offense that needed to improve after a sluggish start to the season.

It's clear the Patriots offense could use a boost this year, too. It's obvious that they need more James White.

Through six games this season, White has been on the field for only 33 percent of the snaps, down 20 percent from last season (White did miss one game due to the birth of his child). He needs to play more than just one-third of the offensive snaps. White is easily the Patriots second-best weapon behind Julian Edelman and it's time for Josh McDaniels to utilize him more.

And it's time to get Sony Michel off the field.

Michel is grinding the Patriots offense to a halt when he's in the game.  Despite the team's efforts to utilize him more in the passing game in recent weeks, there is little doubt that Michel makes the offense more predictable. His presence in the huddle almost always screams "we're running" to opposing defenses, and when the Patriots predictably hand it off to Michel, he goes nowhere.

Oct 10, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots running back Sony Michel is tacked by New York Giants outside linebacker David Mayo during the first half at Gillette Stadium. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 10, 2019; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots running back Sony Michel is tacked by New York Giants outside linebacker David Mayo during the first half at Gillette Stadium. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Michel's 22 carries for 86 yards against the Giants don't tell true story of his game. Nearly half of those yards came on two runs at the end of the game against a defense that had been on the field for nearly 40 minutes. Remove his 26 and 13 yard runs, and you get 47 yards on 20 carries, good for 2.3 yards per carry.

Yuck.

Of course, Michel isn't entirely to blame for his ineffectiveness. The offensive line clearly has issues and they have struggled to establish themselves as a quality run-blocking unit all season long. If the Patriots don't improve up front, the offense won't get much better than this.

But Michel isn't helping the cause, either.

It doesn't take a football expert to see that Michel isn't hitting the hole with authority, and that was never more obvious than on his failed 4th and 1 against the Giants when he didn't stretch the ball out for a first down. Other running backs would've converted that play easily, but Michel didn't.

Brandon Bolden has rightfully become the preferred option to Michel in short-yardage situations and it's fair to wonder if he should start taking a few more carries away from Michel in other parts of the field too. It's hard not to feel that Rex Burkhead, if healthy, would be the better runner than Michel right now, too.

And James White is undeniably a more impactful player than Michel. There's little debating that.

It's time to use him more.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.