FOXBOROUGH — Second-year running back James White has quickly become an option for Tom Brady in the New England Patriots' passing game.
"The role that he's filled, it's been pretty unbelievable what he's accomplished," Brady said on his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. " ... He's very ... he's just solid."
With Shane Vereen gone to the New York Giants via free agency, Dion Lewis emerged as the Patriots back who balances the passing game out of the backfield.
Lewis, who missed the past two seasons with knee injuries, had 36 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns when he went down, again for the season, with another knee injury on Nov. 8.
The Patriots got additional help in the backfield when veteran running back Steven Jackson announced via his Twitter account Monday that he is joining the Patriots.
Coach Bill Belichick saw the growth in White as a player during training camp and preseason. He also saw a young player eager for his chance, but also learning while he wasn't getting that chance.
White has 21 catches in the past three games. He took a screen pass 30 yards for a touchdown, one of his seven catches in Sunday's 33-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. He also had a 70-yard catch and run wiped out by a penalty.
"He's really played well all year," Belichick said Monday. "When we had more depth in the backfield than we have right now he didn't get as many opportunities as he had more recently, but as he's gotten more opportunities he's really taken advantage of them and shown what he can do.
"He's a tough guy to handle with the ball in his hands. He's very smart. He does an excellent job with assignments and adjustments, blitz pickup and all those things. He's really done a good job for us."
White said he is feeling more comfortable in the offense.
"The more you get out there, the more confident you can play, so I'm just trying to play with confidence every week and do whatever I can to help the team."
White has run the ball only 17 times (for 47 yards and two touchdowns), but has caught 33 passes for 319 yards and three scores.
"You go out there during practice and you just try to work on it during practice and then execute out there in the game," White said. "That's what I try to do and if I get the ball in my hands, I just try to make a play for my team and keep the ball secure."
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been pleased with White's progress.
"James has really come on and been a dependable guy for us," McDaniels said Monday.
"His work ethic since we drafted him last year and his maturity, his intelligence, his ability to retain information from one week to the next has always given him an opportunity to know what to do and then now he's had those opportunities in game situations to go out there and then perform on the field.
"So he was working hard even when he wasn't playing a lot and that has definitely benefited him and our team as well since Dion's injury, but he goes in there, he knows what to do, he competes at a very high level, he's in the right spot.
"I think everyone trusts James to do his job well on every play and when he has had his opportunities, he's really made the most of them, to his credit."