The Patriots have been faced with a number of unique situations in terms of personnel this season. During the team's Week 4 win over Miami they dressed just two running backs. Earlier in the season there were only three wide receivers on the active roster.
Last week in Chicago, New England had only one tight end in uniform as Dwayne Allen filled the role while Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister were forced out of the lineup due to injuries.
Through it all the Patriots have generally remained successful, winning their last four games by relying heavily on the personnel that has been available. One guy who sits near the top of that list is James White, who has been one of the team's most consistent performers.
"James was a very productive player at Wisconsin and he filled both a running and receiving role there," Bill Belichick said during his Tuesday conference call. "I think all his skills were evident in college. He didn't really get a chance to play much his rookie year here but he's always been a very hard worker and a very diligent guy. He knows his assignments very well and he asks questions like a coach would ask them. His ability to think really far ahead about what problems could occur on certain fronts or looks … he does a great job of that.
"As he's gained more experience he just knows more and has been able to continue to push it ahead like Tom [Brady] has at his position or Devin [McCourty] has at his position or Patrick [Chung] at his position, [Dont'a] Hightower, guys like that. They start off good and keep going as they learn more they process more and James has done that. He works hard off the field, on the field, knows what his responsibilities are and does his very best to carry them out. You can't ask for any more than that."
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also chimed in about White, and was equally as effusive in his praise of the running back.
"All he's done is work his butt off in every area of being a football player," McDaniels said. "His physical preparation, what he's done in terms of taking care of his body after each week, studying his opponent, knowing who he's playing against, the people he has to block, players he's going to challenge in his route-running, he studies them and he does a tremendous job of digesting and understanding our game plan.
"There aren't many guys that we've had that have done it to the level that he's done it. He's a really special guy in terms of how hard he works and the type of teammate he is. He is tremendously unselfish. He'll do anything you ask him to do. He always puts the team first. He comes ready to work every day. Couldn't ask anything more from a teammate than James White."
While White was a big part of the conference calls, McDaniels and defensive line coach Brendan Daly also touched on some other topics.
Two-point stance – The Giants lost to the Falcons Monday night but one of the elements of the game that stood out was New York coach Pat Shurmur's decision to go for two in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 20-12. The Giants had just scored a touchdown and were a PAT away from drawing within seven, but instead opted to try to trim it to six.
Shurmur explained after the game that analytics suggested it was a wise move, and McDaniels was asked what went into such in-game decisions.
"I would say that Bill really has a process that we all go through in our own areas to make decisions about what we want to do in certain situations," McDaniels said. "Some of those are specific to numbers that are specific to other factors in the game.
"Anytime we're talking about going for two or going for it on fourth down those are decisions Bill makes. There are a lot of statistics and information available and you look at those numbers on a weekly basis but you also have to look at how those numbers came to be. Circumstances in games could dictate analytics saying one thing or another and it might not be cut and dried. Maybe one team had a bunch of injuries one week and played more nickel defense and gave up some plays. A lot of things go into it."
Mobile QB concerns – Chicago's Mitch Trubisky became the latest mobile quarterback to hurt the Patriots with his legs when he carried six times for 81 yards on Sunday. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly was asked about the struggles and if there were any common factors involved.
"It's a challenge week in and week out. There seem to be more and more of these guys that we're asked to defend," Daly said. "The biggest issue we've had is consistency. I feel like we've done a good job at times and others we obviously haven't. There's definitely some execution and there's definitely some scheme things and there's definitely things we can do on the coaching end to minimize some of the issues that we can potentially get into. Inevitably when you're playing good players, good players make plays. We have to be more consistent and do a better job from a communication standpoint and also from a coaching standpoint in making sure we minimize the number of situations that we create just from a scheme standpoint."
Let's go Red Sox – Finally, since Belichick will be doing a voiceover for Fox leading into tonight's broadcast of Game 1 of the World Series the coach was asked how much he enjoyed the project.
"It was awesome," he said. "I was honored they asked me to do it. It was great to be a part of that. I don't really have much of a baseball background, but the World Series is one of the great sporting events in this country, and has a great tradition to it, especially with these two franchises. I'm very humbled to have been asked to participate in that. Look forward to watching some of it."