Patriots have apparently started looking for their next James White
New England Patriots staff are currently in Las Vegas preparing one of the teams for the annual East-West Shrine Bowl. Among the most interesting nuggets to come out of this process is the fact that the team is apparently looking at a particular type of player at running back.
The Patriots and the other Atlanta Falcons, who coach the other team, have reached an agreement, as reported by Roster Watch. While the Falcons would work with the biggest backs, the New England staff would have the scat backs on their roster. This is apparently “what every organization wanted”.
The Patriots looking at smaller running backs capable of filling a receiving role in their offense makes sense. After all, the club was left shorthanded last year after James White retired.
White, who had held the role since the 2015 season, walked away from the game in training camp. New England turned to free-agency pickup Ty Montgomery as his replacement, but he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the first game of the year. With rookie Pierre Strong Jr. being brought into the system, Rhamondre Stevenson had to take on a heavier workload; sometimes the second RB served as the all-around player.
This constellation was far from ideal. Stevenson did an admirable job and finished as the Patriots’ leader in runs and receptions, but he also seemingly ran out of gas on the stretch. As a result, the team seeking more depth in the receiving department makes sense.
So who are the players working with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl? The following are on their West roster:
Kazmeir Allen (UCLA): Although he’s listed as a running back, Allen has experience in more than one role: He also played wide receiver for the Bruins. He finished his 2022 redshirt senior season with 64 touches for 606 yards and four touchdowns. While he averaged solid production as a receiver, his rushing average of 13.5 yards on 15 carries stands out.
Travis Dye (USC): Dye suffered a season-ending leg injury in November and was a limited participant throughout Shrine Bowl week, but he’s a seemingly tailor-made player for Nova Scotia. England. A three-try back, who was Oregon’s running and receiving leader in 2021 before transferring to USC, he can catch, carry and protect passes. His injury status is worth considering but his potential also cannot be denied.
Mohamed Ibrahim (Minnesota): Ibrahim enters the draft after an extremely productive senior season for the Golden Gophers. He broke multiple school records in 2022 and is now the new school leader in rushing attempts (320), rushing yards (1,665) and rushing touchdowns (20). He wasn’t used much as a receiver in college — he caught just 22 passes for 145 yards — but he has a development advantage in that area.
Xazavian Valladay (Arizona State): Valladay started his career in Wyoming, but after four years with the Cowboys, he moved to Arizona State last year. In his only season at Tempe, he touched the ball 252 times for 1,481 yards and 18 touchdowns; most of his production (215-1,192-16) came on the floor, but he also showed his receiving prowess at the Shrine Bowl.
The Patriots are looking closely at these four players, as well as fullback hybrid Jack Colleto (Oregon State). Although that in itself is not a sign that they will invest in one, the arrangement with the Falcons is remarkable nonetheless.
For the Patriots, several factors affect whether or not they will go after the next James White in this year’s draft. Among them are the development of Pierre Strong Jr., a fourth-round pick last year, as well as Ty Montgomery’s recovery from season-ending shoulder surgery.
That said, the team is looking closely at some potential draft targets this week.