Patriots rookie RB D.J. Foster hopes to seize opportunity vs. Panthers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When it comes to New England Patriots players who have an opportunity to make the roster, but still need a big performance in Friday night’s preseason road game against the Carolina Panthers, rookie running back D.J. Foster is near the top of the list.

Foster had an “encouraging” spring, according to coach Bill Belichick, but he hasn’t played in the first two preseason games because of an undisclosed injury, and he wasn’t a full participant in most training camp practices up until this week.

Normally, that might create a situation that makes it too difficult for Foster to catch up. But with top “passing back” Dion Lewis set to open the season on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list -- which will sideline him for at least the first six games of the year -- perhaps that buys the 6-foot, 195-pound Foster a little extra time. Foster received $30,000 in guaranteed money in his contract, which was the second-highest among the the team's undrafted free agents and reflects how the team had competition from other clubs to sign sign him.

Foster fits into the “passing back” role, as he played both running back and receiver at Arizona State, finishing with 444 rushing attempts for 2,355 yards and 18 touchdowns, along with 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns.

Watching him go through agility drills in spring practices, his quickness was evident.

But does that translate to NFL games?

Foster said he is excited to play, while also acknowledging the injury -- which occurred in practice and has been nagging him -- has created some adversity for him to overcome.

“It’s been some tough times, but my teammates and coaches have done a great job of keeping me in the mix,” he said, acknowledging that a big part has been staying up to speed in the meeting room.

In addition to Foster, here are a few other back-end-of-the-roster players to monitor tonight for different reasons:

Ted Karras – A 2016 sixth-round draft choice from Illinois, he started 43 games at right guard in college. He has also worked at center with the Patriots, and after the club traded Bryan Stork on Wednesday, Karras’ work as a possible backup behind David Andrews warrants a closer look as he looks to solidify a roster spot.

Keshawn Martin – The fifth-year receiver hasn’t played in the first two preseason games because of an undisclosed injury, but returned to practice this week. He’s a top candidate to land the fifth spot at receiver behind Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell. It could be between him and Aaron Dobson.

Bryce Williams – The undrafted rookie tight end from East Carolina showed some early promise catching the football early in training camp, but then sustained an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the first two preseason games. He’s a practice-squad candidate at a critical position in the team’s offense.