Check out the 2017 New England Patriots training camp preview as they look to defend their championship (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s time for the defending champs. The New England Patriots will look to repeat in 2017 as their roster looks as good as its ever been. New England’s backup quarterback could start for virtually half the league, this team’s that good. Then again, Bill Belichick knows the end is near as he has dealt draft picks for veteran’s, something he never does. How long will Tom Brady continue to play? There’s a lot going on with the champs. Let’s have a look at the 2017 training camp preview for the New England Patriots.

3 Position Battles To Watch:

  1. Running Back: Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, DJ Foster, Brandon Bolden

Talk about a deep backfield. There’s simply no way the Pats can keep all of these guys. Knowing Belichick’s track record, it’s impossible to predict who they would take. Both Gillislee and Burkhead come over from free agency so it’s unclear how they will be used. They can’t possibly move on from Super Bowl hero James White, right?

2. Middle Linebacker: David Harris, Elandon Roberts

The rich just get richer as the Pats swiped Harris for next to nothing after he was cut by the Jets. Roberts was the starter during last year’s Super Bowl and played fairly well. Harris is a veteran nearing the end of the road. As a rookie, Roberts recorded 45 tackles while Harris notched 95. It may not be Roberts time yet but it’s coming.

3. Safety: Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

Chung is simply just a guy that fills a hole. The mainstay with the Pats is still productive picking up 91 tackles a year ago but brings virtually no ball production. Duron Harmon was given a big contract in the offseason. The question now is whether he is ready to play as a starter at safety or if he is just a special teams player.

Ready To Breakout: Trey Flowers

Flowers was one of many heroes during the recent Super Bowl win. After a 7 sack season, Flowers will likely emerge as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the league. Flowers earned high remarks during my draft coverage in 2015. If you don’t know who Trey Flowers is, well, he just might be the best defender the Patriots have.

Rookie To Watch: Derek Rivers

Rivers was the Patriots first pick in the third round. Rivers first caught my eye at the Senior Bowl where he really held his own coming from a small school (Youngstown State). At the combine, Rivers moved really well in space and showed a great first step quickness. Bill Belichick rarely misses on the defensive side of the ball.

Fantasy Sleeper: Mike Gillislee

For whatever reason, Bill Belichick loves signing guys within the division that aren’t being utilized. Gillislee is just that guy who I was high on coming out of Florida. After averaging 5.7 yards per carry this past year with the Bills, don’t be surprised if he catapults his way into a starting job.