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Predicting 5 Patriots breakout players in 2018: #4 Rex Burkhead

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After re-signing with the Patriots in the off-season, Rex Burkhead will look to make an even bigger impact with the team in 2018.

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Rex Burkhead exemplifies exactly what you look for in a New England Patriot. He’s fast, undersized, shifty and plays the game hard and the right way. Labeled as the “Perfect Patriot”, Burkhead, who battled a rib injury and only played in 13 of the team’s 19 games last year, will look to have more of an impact this season.

With a lot of versatility and speed at the running back position, Burkhead brings the ability to not only run between the tackles but also catch the football and be effective in the passing game as well. Burkhead could slide in as New England’s all purpose back, basically filling the role that Dion Lewis held last season.

It was pretty clear that before Burkhead missed about a month of the season with his rib injury that the Patriots wanted him to be their guy. Despite a Mike Gillislee fumble problem, it was tough for Burkhead to find time towards the end of the season, though, with Dion Lewis running away with the #1 running back spot.

We still saw some bright spots pre-rib injury from him last year. One being in the pre-season against Houston when he came out of the backfield and caught a pass over the middle for a score and one versus the Saints when he caught a wheel route for a touchdown.

James White being primarily a pass catcher, and Sony Michel (if healthy) handling most of the carries leaves Burkhead to again slide into some different spots in 2018, where he can help the Patriots in multiple ways.

With no Dez Bryant walking through the door (at least for right now) and the Patriots very thin at the wide receiver position (especially for the first four games), the weight on Burkhead’s shoulders has amounted to much more than before. A mix of Burkhead and White can give Tom Brady some shifty weapons out of the backfield.

Given his adaptability in learning the offense last season and the level on which he competed, we may see Rex Burkhead break out in many ways this season and be a real X-factor for the Patriots’ offense.