FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots will hold their first public training camp practice on July 27. As part of the lead-up to camp, I'll spotlight one position each weekday to highlight the team's personnel and some of the storylines of note.
Roster locks: Gillislee, White, Lewis, Burkhead
Health report: Lewis, who opened last year on the physically unable to perform list after a setback with his torn ACL, and then injured his hamstring in the Super Bowl, has a clean bill of health. Given his injury history with the team, and the goal of keeping him healthy for all 16 games, the coaches might consider an approach similar to the one they take with receiver Danny Amendola: limiting regular-season snaps. … Running backs coach Ivan Fears said in the spring that Gillislee was working through something health-wise, but it didn't seem to be a long-term concern. That is something to keep an eye on at the start of camp.
Too aggressive on Lewis? Some might ask the question: Is Lewis really a lock? To me, he adds an element of explosiveness and quickness that isn't otherwise on the roster at the position. Also, the Patriots are 17-0 in games Lewis has played over the last two years. While that isn't all because of Lewis, it's a reflection, in part, on his impact.
Foster a wild card: A 2016 undrafted free agent out of Arizona State, Foster made the initial roster in 2016 and was kept around all season with the future in mind. He looked effective catching the ball in spring practices. Foster appears to belong on an NFL roster; in New England, the question will be if there is room for him after the free-agent signings of Gillislee and Burkhead to deals averaging in the $3 million per year range.
Stat check: LeGarrette Blount (now with the Eagles) played a running back-high 47.2 percent of the Patriots' offensive snaps last season. White was next at 38 percent. Blount's void figures to be filled by a committee approach, with Gillislee the top candidate to earn the majority of snaps.
Rookies in focus: Daniels, a bigger back who runs with power, was signed as an undrafted free agent. He's the heaviest running back on the roster, at 225 pounds.
Quote of note: "I think James White is a good player. What he does is good. Could somebody do it better? I don't know. But it would take quite a bit, I would say, based on where he is and how consistent he's been with what he's done. It would take somebody playing pretty good to be better than him." -- Bill Belichick (on White seizing the passing back role), Nov. 11, 2016