Checking the locks: Patriots RBs

As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's running backs.

Sure-fire locks: Shane Vereen, James White

Near locks: Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden

Trying to get in the door: Stephen Houston, Jonas Gray, Roy Finch

ANALYSIS: When the Patriots lost Vereen for eight games due to a wrist injury last year, they didn't have "perfect fit" replacement for the role of "passing back" as Bolden was most often utilized. But they do now in White, the fourth-round pick from Wisconsin, which is why both Vereen and White are viewed as sure-fire locks to stick in 2014. The reason Ridley and Bolden don't garner the same consideration is the possibility that Houston (undrafted free agent) or Gray (first-year player) surprise and challenge for a roster spot. That's a long shot, and Bolden brings significant value on special teams, but something that at least warrants consideration. Bolden, after all, made the roster as an undrafted player two years ago. It's most likely that the Patriots keep four running backs and Houston, Finch and/or Gray finds a spot on the practice squad to add depth.