Dion Lewis’ Surgery Opens Door For Patriots’ James White, Possible Trade

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The New England Patriots’ running back situation suddenly became even more uncertain Sunday afternoon.

Dion Lewis entered the season as the Patriots’ presumptive starter, even though he was returning from a torn ACL suffered in November. Now Lewis reportedly will undergo a second surgery on his knee, which means it’s likely he’ll be placed on PUP/reserve and be out at least six weeks to begin the season.

So, what does this mean for the Patriots’ running back roster competition? Let’s first reset the depth chart:

LeGarrette Blount
James White
Brandon Bolden
Tyler Gaffney
Donald Brown
Joey Iosefa
D.J. Foster

Here are a few notes:

— Barring anything crazy, Blount, White and Bolden now are locks to crack the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Blount will handle early downs, White will be the third-down back and Bolden is the super reserve whose primary responsibilities will come on special teams. Blount and White each have impressed in the preseason: Blount has 20 carries for 89 yards with two touchdowns, while White has three carries for 12 yards and three catches for 73 yards and two near-scores.

— That leaves room for one more player on the Patriots’ 53-man roster, since they typically carry four backs. Gaffney is above Brown on the depth chart right now because he’s healthy and has played in two preseason games. Brown still is limited in practice and hasn’t played a preseason snap yet. Iosefa is a fullback/running back, and Foster, like Brown, has been limited in practice and has yet to see preseason action.

— Gaffney has 95 rushing yards on 20 carries with one touchdown with five catches for 18 yards in two preseason games so far. His yards per carry are bloated by a 44-yard touchdown. Without that, he’s averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Gaffney has been solid in preseason action so far, but he was outplayed by Blount on Thursday and hasn’t done enough to lock down a role yet.

— It’s worth noting the Patriots gave Brown a one-year, $965,000 contract with $300,000 guaranteed — more than they gave Blount in his one-year, $1 million contact ($100k guaranteed). That means the Patriots only would save $215,000 in cap space by keeping Gaffney over Brown.

— Foster showed a ton of burst in the spring before suffering a hamstring injury. Perhaps now that Lewis’ status is uncertain, there will be more urgency in seeing Foster this summer.

— The Patriots could still elect to trade for a running back, and the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans have the most depth at the position.

— The Chiefs have Jamaal Charles, Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and Knile Davis. Davis seems like the most likely candidate to be traded, since West and Ware took over last season — and received new contracts — after Charles went down.

— The Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliot, Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and sixth-round pick Darius Jackson. McFadden or Jackson are the most likely candidates to be moved. Jackson, an Eastern Michigan product, fits the Patriots’ typical measureables profile. He’s 6 feet, 220 pounds and ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash with a 6.87-second 3-cone drill, 4.29-second short shuttle, 41-inch vertical leap and 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

— The Titans, whose general manager, Jon Robinson, was hired away from the Patriots, have Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Bishop Sankey and Devid Fluellen. Andrews, Cobb and Sankey seem like good candidates to be moved. Sankey best fits the Patriots’ typical pre-draft standards.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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