On the surface, New England Patriots running back Sony Michel had his best game of the 2019 season on Monday with three touchdowns. In reality, he did very little else to add production to a thorough New England victory.
Michel rushed for just 42 yards on 19 carries and had one catch for negative-eight yards. Michel’s touchdown runs were for a combined five yards and ten of his carries were for zero or negative yards.
But when Michel did break loose from scrimmage, he was often eating up good yardage. Most of his negative runs were either up the middle or to the right side. His biggest runs were to the left through the tackle or the end, interesting considering how much Patriots left tackle Marshall Newhouse has struggled in pass protection this season.
The Patriots could exploit this against a Cleveland team that has struggled to defend the run this season.
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Sony Michel Matchup vs Cleveland
Michel is currently one of the top backs in the league in terms of carries per game with 17. Despite not generating big yardage totals, he shows good leverage in short-yardage situations and has been more involved as a receiver as of late.
The Browns rushing defense hasn’t been stellar as they may have hoped this season. Part of that could be a lack of a Jamie Collins-esque presence in the linebacker unit. Regardless, Cleveland’s defense allows 154 rushing yards per game — 30th in the NFL.
The Browns have also allowed 5.0 yards per carry this season as well — second-most in the league and the highest YPC allowed the Patriots will face this season. Yes, that includes Miami (4.7 YPC).
For some reason, the Browns just can’t seem to contain the opposing run game. Chris Carson was the latest running back to victimize Cleveland, amassing 124 yards on 24 carries. His 5.2 yards per carry in Seattle’s victory over the Browns was his highest YPC total of the season and he is currently averaging a career-low 4.1 YPC in seven games.
Should You Start Sony Michel vs Browns
This could be the game Michel has waited for all season. Michel hasn’t been terrible, all things considered, but he has yet to really have a breakout performance and hasn’t hit the 100-yard plateau in a game this year.
That looks set to change against the Browns. With a 100 percent chance of rain for kickoff, the Patriots may look to use a more run-heavy offense to exploit the Browns’ defensive weakness and beat the elements.
New England saw strong run-blocking production from newly-acquired tight end Eric Tomlinson and, of all people, linebacker Elandon Roberts who filled in at fullback for the team’s goal-line offense.
If the Patriots can get Michel into a groove early, it’s possible they may ride him for a good portion of Sunday’s contest. So do yourself a favor and insert Sony Michel into your starting lineup.