New England Patriots
Although his offseason free agent signing didn’t create the splash that RB Mike Gillislee’s did, RB Rex Burkhead could become Bill Belichick’s latest diamond-in-the-rough discovery. The 2013 sixth-round pick from Nebraska spent his first four seasons as a backup for the Cincinnati Bengals. But Belichick liked what he saw from tough-running, dependable Burkhead, who rushed 27 times for 119 yards when pressed into action in the Bengals’ 2016 season finale.
Burkhead has seized on the increased workload he has seen with Gillislee sidelined by a groin injury. In an Aug. 19 preseason loss to the Houston Texans, 5-10, 210-pound Burkhead rushed seven times for 20 yards and had three receptions for 50 yards, including a 22-yard catch-andrun from QB Tom Brady that resulted in a touchdown.
“I still have a long ways to go in some areas,” Burkhead told the
Boston Herald. “But I’m definitely more comfortable with things.”
Rookie watch: Undrafted LB Harvey Langi from Brigham Young made his second consecutive start and recorded four tackles while playing deep into the game. … The season-ending knee injury suffered by thirdround pick Derek Rivers, coupled with the retirement of veteran Rob Ninkovich, make New England thin at defensive end and might prompt a signing.
Noteworthy: TE Rob Gronkowski saw his first preseason game action since 2012. The Patriots normally keep Gronkowski sidelined during exhibition games to prevent the risk of further injuries. He was on the field for 15 of the team’s first 17 plays Aug. 19 but wasn’t targeted by Brady. Gronkowski is coming
back from a back injury that sidelined him for eight games last season. … Brady was 6-of-9 for 67 yards and one touchdown in his first two series of the preseason.