4 roster battles to watch for as the New England Patriots return for training camp

  • Who will become the next go-to guy for Mac Jones?
  • Will a rookie kicker win the job from Nick Folk?
  • Can a second-year running back secure the backup role behind Stevenson?
New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills
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Running back

Unlike last season when there was an apparent battle for the coveted RB1 spot between Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, who will be the go-to out of the backfield is not up for debate.

It's Stevenson.

But what is up for debate and yet to be determined is who will be helping to split the snap counts with him. The release of James Robinson earlier this year leaves Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. competing for the backup role.

Harris and Strong are entering their second NFL season and had little involvement last year. But Strong did accomplish a bit more, totaling ten carries for 100 yards and a touchdown to Harris' 18 carries for 52 yards and a score.

In his limited action, Strong showed the explosiveness he was known for during his time at South Dakota State. On top of that, his growing experience as a receiver gives him an edge for the number two role over Harris, whose involvement in that area has varied from season to season.

Since Damien Harris wasn't reliable as a pass-catcher through his four seasons in New England, it's fair to assume that Strong's skillset better matches what the Patriots will need from their running backs to accommodate their offense and Stevenson the most.

If Strong can be reliable running the football and as a receiver, sitting right behind Stevenson will be his job to lose. Harris will also have the opportunity, but he will almost certainly have far more obstacles to overcome to beat out Strong in the coming weeks.