The 2019 New England Patriots have struggled to run the ball for much of the season despite depth at the position and several different options.
Part of that has been a lack of sufficient blocking by the offensive line. But could it be because the most talented and diverse back isn’t out there?
When New England drafted running back Damien Harris in the third round last spring out of Alabama, it was a selection that was overlooked at the time. After all, the Patriots had just drafted Sony Michel a year earlier and his late-season and postseason performance signaled New England would be set there for a few years.
But throughout 2019, Michel struggled from the start, lacking the same explosiveness and confidence for much of the season while failing to produce big numbers as a receiver. That’s where Damien Harris fits into this scheme. Given the logjam at the position and on special teams, Harris rarely saw the field and used his rookie season as a de-facto redshirt season.
But with his skill flashing in preseason along with a few opportunities in the regular season, Harris showed he could one day be a key contributor to the Patriots’ offense; and his coaches feel the same way.
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Damien Harris ‘Everything We’ve Asked’ & More
Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears opened up about Harris being a part of this Patriots team in the future during his media availability on Friday, noting that the rookie has put in the work in practice and off the field as well.
His biggest point of emphasis: Harris’ skill and work ethic were not the reason he has been frequently a healthy scratch.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to. He’s working hard, he’s healthy and everything’s going well. We just haven’t had the injuries we normally have at this position. We’ve been very healthy. And it’s kind of hard to carry five backs for the game. We got some guys that do a lot of work on special teams and until he develops a roll there then he gets a chance to be a part of that gameday roster. Damien has done a great job, he really has. I love to see him. I think he’s got a great future and I think he’s going to be a really good back in this league.”
2019 Draft Prepared Patriots for Future
It appears the Patriots’ coaching staff is optimistic about the future with several rookies already getting involved this season as well as others who are injured or have been inactive.
Harris and Michel could mold into a tremendous backfield duo in the coming seasons as a young Patriots team begins to take shape in preparation for the post-Brady era. The team drafted quarterback Jarrett Stidham last year as well and the rookie, who has taken plenty of first-team reps in practice.
Along with N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and injured offensive linemen Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste, New England’s rookie class could form into the tools to construct the next dynasty in the future.