FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- And then there were two.
When the New England Patriots formed their initial 53-man roster at the start of the 2015 season, they had a solid running back corps that went five deep. LeGarrette Blount was the top power back, with Dion Lewis emerging from a three-man competition to claim the "sub back" role.
Four-year veteran Brandon Bolden fit in as a versatile backup with his primary contributions on special teams, while 2014 fourth-round pick James White and free-agent signing Travaris Cadet (fourth year) added depth as pass-catching options.
Now, as the Patriots prepare for Sunday's home game against the Tennessee Titans, they have just Bolden and White as Blount was officially placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday (hip), Lewis tore his ACL on Nov. 8, and Cadet was released in a roster crunch in late September.
"We started out with a lot of guys and we kept each other hungry and willing to go out there and put up a good fight," said Bolden, who was swarmed by reporters in the locker room Wednesday in a reflection of how the depleted running back corps is a top issue facing the club.
"Now it's just me and James ... we're going to try to keep this train moving."
There is still the possibility the Patriots pick up an extra passenger along the way. Veteran power back Steven Jackson visited with the club Wednesday (no signing is imminent) and rookie Alonzo Harris, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, had a workout Tuesday.
The Patriots also signed 2013 Denver Broncos second-round draft choice Montee Ball to their practice squad Tuesday, with coach Bill Belichick saying more depth was needed, and the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Ball is a "good-sized" player with experience in both the running and passing game.
As it stands, Bolden (5-11, 220) is the most likely option if the Patriots want to play the type of power football that has been commonplace for them when cold weather and elements become a factor in late December and into January. That goes back to the days of running backs Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and most recently Blount.
Bolden made the Patriots' roster as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi in 2012, and his primary niche has been special teams. His career high in carries for a game is 16, which he did twice -- Sept. 30, 2012 against the Buffalo Bills and this past Sunday night against the Houston Texans. He has one 100-yard game on his resume, which came in that 2012 game against Buffalo.
Bolden said he believes he's ready to be the Patriots' workhorse power back if called upon. Belichick, for his part, isn't tipping his hand.
"He definitely did that in college," Belichick said, referring to Bolden's four-year career at Mississippi in which he finished second in school history in total touchdowns (33) and rushing touchdowns (27), third in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604), but slipped out of the NFL draft primarily because of teams' concerns about past suspensions.
"He's been a four-down player for us, so he's played the role of a big back, he's played the role of a sub back, and he's played well for us in the kicking game on fourth down. I think it would be hard to increase each role. It's possible but I think it would be hard realistically to do that, but maybe that needs to be done. I think we're going to have to figure that out."
The Patriots also have White, the 5-10, 205-pound sub back who could possibly help out on early downs as well.
"He's earned everybody's trust, not just mine," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's very dependable, consistent. He runs it well, he's smart, he's tough. That's a really important position for us because we're such a passing-oriented offense -- not just catching, but it's also blitz pickup. James has come through for us, so it's been great to see."
As for losing Blount, Belichick noted his dependability and athleticism for a 250-pound running back. Blount injured his hip in the second quarter of Sunday's win over the Texans, which hit Bolden hard, especially after Lewis' torn ACL five weeks earlier.
"Kind of like déjà vu. You see one brother go down, and then you see another one go down, it's a real gut-wrenching feeling," he said. "You don't want to see that happen to anyone, and then when it happens to one of your teammates, one of the guys in your [position] room, it kind of hits a special place."