Curran: O'Brien will help Patriots' offense get back to the details originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
We are entering the NFL dry season. All the big tentpole events have come and gone, now it’s an OTA and minicamp slog until the big month-long break from mid-June to mid-July.
Which means opportunity knocks! We can dig a little deeper to get perspectives from people we haven’t yet heard from, especially in their areas of expertise.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
Which led me to James White. The beloved running back was forced into retirement last year by a hip injury but there are few who know the Patriots – and their offense specifically – better than White.
Patriots Talk: James White on advice for Mac Jones, the Patriots’ need for a third-down back and MORE! | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
Looking at the Patriots running back crew and the offense in general, the lack of a true “third down” or “sub” back remains. White did that job like nobody had since Kevin Faulk. And they’ve missed him since he’s been gone.
They’ve missed a few things, actually. Since 2020, the team has morphed the offense to fit the skills of Cam Newton, turned the reins over to rookie Mac Jones, reconfigured the offense under neophyte play-caller/offensive coordinator Matt Patricia and now they are in the process of changing again to Bill O’Brien’s scheme.
How radical the moves under O’Brien will be remains to be seen but there will at the very least be tweaks. But one of the main aspects of the O’Brien addition will be – in his eyes – a resumed effort to get on the details.
“I think Billy O, bringing him back, is huge,” said White. “Obviously, the offense had a down year … Billy O should bring that discipline back, that accountability back. From the quarterback position to offensive line, running back, receivers, basically making sure that guys can show they are reliable on a day-to-day basis will be the guy that are playing week in and week out.
“I think that'll be very important to get back to those finer details, the fundamentals. … He looks like a hard-nosed football coach, an old-school football coach. Doesn't really take too much stuff. I don't know. I haven't interacted with him too much, so I can't speak to that … but from what I've seen competing against him when he's with the Texans, when he was with Penn State, he's a very good football coach. He'll demand the best out of the players that are in that room.”
Perry: How rare athlete Keion White can be deployed in Pats' defense
White admits he was surprised by the inefficiency of the Patriots' 2022 offensive product.
“They were very uncharacteristic mistakes that you would see, especially in the red zone,” said White. “We are typically known as a really good red zone offense. Obviously, I don't put it all on Matty P (Matt Patricia) and Joe Judge; it’s on the players as well because they're not executing. They put the plays in; players gotta go out there and execute to the best of their ability.
"Obviously, if it isn’t a great play call it’s not gonna work, but it was here and there. Sometimes it was players messing the plays up and sometimes there would be bad play calls. So I think everybody just has to come back this season look themselves in the mirror, new offense going in, find ways to get better, find ways to improve and show this new coach what you're willing to do on a day-by-day basis to help this team win football games.”
White’s heard the lament that the Patriots don’t have enough firepower on offense. He thinks there’s plenty.
“I think they have a very underrated offense. I kind of said before, they don't have, you know, the ‘high profile names’ within the conference. But they have the best coach, in my opinion, which (Bill Belichick) is in the division, which I think that's the most important thing.
"You can have all the players you want. If you don't have the right coach in place to allow the players to be themselves to go out and execute the game plan, then it honestly matter. So I think Billy O and Coach (Belichick) is a great match up. Again, I think it allows for this team to be a surprising football team.”