These are the Patriots running backs competing for limited roster spots

A trio of expected roster inclusions is followed by a quartet of uncertainty.

James White takes a handoff from Tom Brady during Patriots minicamp in June, 2018.
James White takes a handoff from Tom Brady during Patriots minicamp in June, 2018. –AP Photo/Steven Senne

A season ago, the Patriots drew attention for signing multiple free agent running backs. A year later, Bill Belichick has increased the team’s commitment to the position.

Heading into New England’s 2018 training camp, the Patriots carry a plethora of talented running backs. The departure of dynamic playmaker Dion Lewis requires another of the team’s backs to step up (whether collectively or individually). In the form of a 2018 first-round draft pick, the Patriots may have at least part of an answer to that lingering question mark.

Here’s a basic overview of the running backs who will fill out the Patriots depth chart this season:

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Rex Burkhead: Whether he will actually top the depth chart or whether it will fall to one of his teammates is difficult to say before training camp. But as Burkhead’s production off the bench proved last season, it might be an irrelevant point of discussion. In 2017, his 518 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 10 games showed both his effectiveness and versatility.

James White: Since 2015, White’s pass reception totals have outpaced his rushing attempts. This is clearly indicative of how Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels prefers to use the 26-year-old in the offense. Along with Burkhead, White is probably one of two veterans who begins training camp relatively safe from being cut.

Sony Michel: The second of the Patriots’ two first-round picks in 2018, Michel is used to dealing with hype. In 2014, he arrived on campus at Georgia as a five-star recruit, breaking into a crowded backfield that included fellow freshman Nick Chubb and 2017 NFL Player of the Year, Todd Gurley. Given his talent, Michel could see plenty of the field in his rookie year.

Mike Gillislee: After starting 2017 as a primary short yardage back for the Patriots, Gillislee’s role was relegated to the point that he was inactive for seven regular season games, as well as the entirety of the playoffs. In 2018, he is reportedly in danger of not getting a roster spot. But after an offseason in which he was healthier than a year ago, Gillislee enters camp in better shape.

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Jeremy Hill: A classic example of Belichick buying low on a talented player, Hill could challenge Gillislee as a short yardage specialist in the Patriots’ backfield. His size and strength was part of what led him to score 29 touchdowns in his first three NFL seasons. Only 25, Hill still has upside that the Patriots will hope to unleash.

Brandon Bolden: Bolden has seen the threat of training camp cuts before. He’s survived primarily because of his special teams ability, where he’s been one of the most consistent performers in a quality group. Bolden will reportedly begin 2018 on the non-football illness list.

Ralph Webb: Michel isn’t the only Patriots rookie running back in 2018. And just like the more heralded first-round pick, the undrafted Webb was extremely prolific at the college level. He departed Vanderbilt as the school’s all-time leading rusher (4,178 yards). Webb starts camp as an underdog to make the roster, but it’s a role he probably enjoys.

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