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Tom E. Curran on D&K: Patriots trying to change identity of offense

December 19, 2018 - 5:03 pm

By Evan Marinofsky 

The Patriots have lost two straight games in December for the first time since Week 15-16 in 2002. Lots of questions loom and it feels as if there's panic surrounding this team. 

In his weekly interview with Dale & Keefe, Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston was asked if James White's lack of touches in the Patriots' 17-10 loss to the Steelers came because of Rex Burkhead's presence and Sony Michel being a first-round pick. His answer spoke to a much bigger picture that the Patriots are trying to establish. 

"I think [the Patriots] are trying to change the identity of their offense with Tom Brady under center more," said Curran. "He should've been under center more against Pittsburgh in my estimation to establish Sony Michel. But they kept getting backed out of it by penalties. So to me, it's not because they took Sony Michel in the first round; it's that the identity of team needs to morph a little bit and when you have a finite number of plays to run and you have Gronk, Edelman and Gordon and Burkhead and Michel, it's going to come from somewhere." 

During the interview, it was brought up that the Patriots are undefeated when James White's carries and targets exceed 13, but when the versatile back's carries and targets are below 12, the Patriots lose.

Curran gave the reason for White's lack of looks. 

"I think yeah, you don't want to have him getting 20 touches a game, which he was getting close to," said Curran. "You need to narrow that plus Burkhead can do some things for you on first and second downs as a straight running back that they don't think James White can do. Additionally, White started to see attention from defenses, which brought Brady's eyes elsewhere." 

Curran added that at some point, White will see an increased amount of action. 

"There's going to be a game where they go against that team playing that cover-3 Tampa/Seattle/Jacksonville defense and James White will be getting a ton of touches," he added.

On the topic of the offense, Curran was asked about Edelman and Gordon's drops in the loss to the Steelers. 

"I thought that Gordon actually didn't see it coming," said Curran. "I think it impacted some of the looks he got later on in the game. With Edelman, no idea. It's a bad streak and this is something that happened with Wes Welker in 2010 coming off his ACL. He came back from his ACL tear and had 9-10 drops over the course of the season. Led the NFL in drops, which was up from 1-2 drops on more targets in previous years. 

"I talked to Jerod Mayo about that and he said sometimes it comes in flurries; if Edelman gets past it, you can pretty much guarantee he's going to lock everything in. But it wasn't just the drops in this past game -- it's been happening even in drills. During training camp we saw it happen a lot." 

Edelman is tied with Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon for most passes dropped in the NFL with eight.