FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots will have enough trouble divvying up touches between four running backs this season. How on earth would they be able to support a fifth?
That’s the question facing D.J. Foster as he enters his second NFL season.
Foster made the Patriots’ roster as an undrafted free agent last summer and essentially redshirted as a rookie, sitting out 16 of New England’s 19 games as a healthy scratch. He carried the ball just seven times for 24 yards and caught one pass for 2 yards.
That the Patriots kept Foster on their 53-man roster rather than assigning him to the practice squad showed they clearly see potential in the 23-year-old. Practice-squad players can be snatched up by another team at any time — a risk the Patriots evidently didn’t want to take.
But with free agent signees Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee now in the mix at running back along with incumbents James White and Dion Lewis, it will be a whole lot tougher for Foster to hang on to his spot this year. In addition to that potent quartet, he also has longtime special teamer Brandon Bolden and undrafted rookie LeShun Daniels to contend with.
Foster, though, said he’s relishing the competition.
“I love it,” he said Tuesday after another organized team activities session wrapped up outside Gillette Stadium. “It’s the time of year where every team, they stock up and they have a lot of guys. But I can’t worry about that.
“I just worry about what I can control, and I enjoy coming out here and competing with all those guys and learning as much as I can from those guys in that room. And (I’m) just enjoying it — grinding every day and competing with them.”
As a former college slot receiver, Foster is tailor-made for OTAs and minicamp, where contact isn’t allowed and power backs take a backseat to pass-catchers. He performed well in the five practices open to the media, displaying the sure hands and quick feet that helped him stand out on these same fields last summer.
“It’s definitely so much growth between that first and second year,” Foster said. “So I definitely feel a lot more prepared coming into this year. As a rookie, everything’s so new, so just understanding even where the training room is, simple stuff like that, kind of takes the stress off you. So I’m just learning every day and just enjoying it.”
The Patriots will hold one more OTAs session Thursday before breaking for the summer. Roster battles will begin in earnest when the team reconvenes for training camp during the final week of July.
“I think it’s a great time for everybody to come out here and just get the spiderwebs and cobwebs out and just come out here and play hard,” Foster said. “And that’s what I try to do every day — just come out here, learn from the coaches and just go out there and have fun and try to make a play.”
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images