The New England Patriots have a good problem in their offensive backfield. The team has a plethora of talent, and last year’s third-round pick, Damien Harris might be primed for a bigger role in 2020.
Harris didn’t play very much his rookie season behind Sony Michel and James Harris, but Bill Belichick didn’t select him out of Alabama on Day 2 to have him sit.
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The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian opined on a very realistic scenario that could see Harris poised for a takeover from a potentially vulnerable Michel.
“The starting group collectively, assuming Joe Thuney remains, will be a strength of the offense,” said Guregian. “In turn, the run game should be better with a healthy line, but top back Sony Michel just had foot surgery. While reports suggest he could be ready for training camp since when is foot surgery for a running back a good sign? Especially one with bad knees? Damien Harris, the 2019 third-round pick out of Alabama, might actually prove an upgrade, but that remains to be seen.”
That’s a very good point as no one knows exactly how Michel will respond, and with a disrupted training camp and perhaps not having access to the right sort of guidance through his rehab, Michel could miss more time than expected.
Also, as Gureguan pointed out, Michel has already had lower-body injuries, and he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, which is beneath what you’d like to see from a back who gets the bulk of the carries.
During the 2019 season, Harris had just four carries in the regular season for 12 yards. It’s easy to see how that could become frustrating for Harris after a college career that saw him appear in 54 games over four seasons at Alabama.
In that time, he ran the ball 477 times for 3,070 yards and scored a combined 25 TDs. Harris seemed to take the lighter workload in stride in 2019. During a recent interview on patriots.com, Harris talked about the advice he’d been given from the veterans in the running back room with the team, like James White and Rex Burkhead.
“They all played their part in helping me learn and develop. The message from all of them is the same: Be ready because you never know when your time will come and you don’t want to miss it. Stay the course, keep learning and be available.”
Obviously, no one wants to see Michel lose more time, but in the event he is unable to go in Week 1, the Patriots aren’t likely to panic as they still have an untapped resource for production out of the backfield in Harris. Keep an eye out for future updates on Michel’s condition as we move closer to Week 1 of the 2020 regular season.
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