We have entered the quiet parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until next week and late July, respectively. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
After all, until the late-August's roster cuts, players need to have secured their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with a second-year running back.
Name: D.J. Foster
Position: Running back
Jersey number: 27w
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’0, 195 lbs.
2016 review: After going undrafted in 2016, the Patriots signed Foster to a free agency contract – and he became one of the team’s training camp standouts. Showing burst and versatility as a runner and pass catcher, Foster had 23 touches for 144 yards during the two preseason games he was active and added 57 yards on four kick returns.
Due to his performance over the summer, he was able to secure a spot on the 53-man roster. However, the Arizona State product spent most of his rookie season on the sidelines and was active for only three games. He finished the year with 16 snaps played on offense and 10 on special teams. When on the field, Foster registered seven carries for 24 yards, one catch for two yards and a 30-yard kickoff return.
He saw his final game-day action in week six against the Cincinnati Bengals and was ultimately waived after week 12. Foster went unclaimed, though, and joined the Patriots’ practice squad before being promoted to the active roster later the same week. He spent the rest of the season as a backup running back but did not appear in any more games.
2017 preview: Despite not seeing a lot of game action during the 2016 regular season, Foster's potential was on display during his first year in New England. If he receives a second one with the team will ultimately depend on whether or not he will be able to live up to his potential and build on his rookie campaign. Given the depth the Patriots have at running back, he better.
In Mike Gillislee, James White and Rex Burkhead, New England has three roster locks at the position. Add fullback James Develin, who is also a safe bet to make the team, and the Patriots' offensive backfield does not appear to have a lot of spots left. Dion Lewis, two years removed from an ACL tear, has the inside track to take one, with Foster as the next man down the depth chart.
To earn a spot on the team, Foster will therefore either have to overtake the more experienced and proven Lewis or hope that the coaching staff elects to keep five pure running backs on its 53-man roster. Neither will happen easily but even if Foster ends up as the odd man out at the running back position he is still eligible to be signed to the practice squad.
And it would very well be in New England's best interest to keep him one way or the other: After all, Foster is a high-ceiling and versatile offensive weapon capable of returning kicks as well; a perfect backup to White and Lewis – either on the active roster or the practice squad.