FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — All of a sudden, the New England Patriots are a bit thin at running back.

Jeremy Hill was placed on injured reserve earlier this week and first-round draft pick Sony Michel continues to nurse a knee injury. Now add in Rex Burkhead, who was listed on the week’s first injury report Wednesday with a concussion.

Burkhead did not participate in the noncontact practice, the team’s first ahead of Sunday’s game in Jacksonville.

Burkhead, who rushed for 64 yards on 18 carries and caught one pass last week against the Texans, did run through the team’s initial individual drills made accessible to the media. He recently overcame a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire preseason.

It looks like Michel could be a key this weekend against Jacksonville. While he hasn’t appeared in a game since his Georgia Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the national championship game back in January, the rookie running back who missed all summer and the regular-season opener might finally get on the field.

If that’s the case, Michel says he’ll be ready.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Michel said in his first comments in over a month. “Doing everything I need to do to get better, to become a better player, whether it’s in the film room, extra work. I’m feeling pretty good.

“Every day it’s all about progression. You always want to get better, if not, you’re staying the same. That’s always been my mindset. That’s something coach always preaches, try to get better every day on something.”

Michel had an outstanding career at Georgia. Last year, he led the SEC in yards per rush (7.9). If he’s healthy, he has an opportunity to play right away.

“It can be difficult at times because as a football player, as a competitor, you want to be on the football field competing out there with the boys,” Michel said. “At the end of the day, it’s a process. You have to trust the process and do whatever it takes.”

NEWLY SIGNED wide receivers Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler and running back Kenjon Barner participated in Wednesday’s session, a nonpadded practice in light rain. All three were signed Tuesday to fill out the 53-man roster.

Practice squad wide receiver/running back Jace Billingsley was not present, and in his place, a new player wearing No. 39 appeared. Some speculate it could be Kenneth Farrow, who was released earlier this month as part of the Patriots’ 53-man roster cuts.

ROOKIES TYPICALLY don’t get a chance to shine during season openers for the Patriots. Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is the exception.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Bentley became the 21st rookie to start in Week 1 during Coach Bill Belichick’s 19 seasons with the franchise. He went on to play 51 defensive snaps (69 percent) – tops among the Patriots’ front seven players – and 15 snaps on special teams (47 percent).

Bentley finished second on the team with seven tackles. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 89.7, which was tops on the Patriots and No. 5 among linebackers in the league.

“It went well,” Bentley said in typically understated fashion. “There are some things that we have to get better at, and that’s why we come here every day.”

Bentley made an impact against the Texans, continuing a trend since the Patriots drafted him in the fifth round (143rd overall) out of Purdue. He was the only member of the team’s nine draft picks in 2018 to dress for Sunday’s game.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater has been impressed with Bentley’s “buy-in” to the so-called Patriot Way and his “tremendous” play on the field. Then he committed a program no-no and made a comparison, likening Bentley to ex-Patriot linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Slater noted Bentley wears No. 51, which was previously the possession of Mayo, who was drafted 10th overall by the Patriots in 2008 and went on to play eight seasons in which he was a multi-year captain, selected to two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl.

“He’s not afraid to be himself and lead,” Slater said. “He’s a very intelligent player, and he’s going to hold guys accountable. The 51 that came in with me, that’s what he did better than anybody I’ve ever been around.

“It takes a special guy. It doesn’t happen very often, especially when you have a strong, established locker room. But, like I said, there are those guys who come around every 10 years or so, and hopefully he can be that for us.”

Bentley is unusually mature for his age. Picture a 22-year-old going on 42.

“You learn to just roll with the punches and be calm in every situation,” Bentley said. “Don’t react too harshly or not harshly enough, so you just have to be prepared for everything. So I would say throughout the line of me maturing, it just comes with getting older and being placed, in many times, uncomfortable situations and being ready for it.”

ONE REASON the Patriots have consistently been so successful over the past 17 seasons is because they characteristically rank among the league leaders in fewest turnovers.

Last season, the Patriots were tied for second in fewest interceptions (eight) and fewest lost fumbles (four), and fourth in fewest total fumbles (13).

But ball security was lacking against Houston. Quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted once, although it came off a tipped pass. Burkhead, tight end Rob Gronkowski and punt returner Riley McCarron all fumbled, with the Texans recovering two.

McCarron was released by the team on Monday.

“It’s a priority every week,” Belichick said of protecting the ball. “It hasn’t changed, and it won’t change. It’s a priority every week.”