Sony Michel has led the New England Patriots in rushing each of the past two seasons. His production dipped in 2019 from 2018, and he suffered some injuries that required surgery to repair this offseason. There is a chance he could begin the 2020 season on the Physically Unable to Perform List. If that’s the case, the Patriots have considerable depth, but they will need some players to step up and perform.
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If Michel does begin the 2020 season on the PUP list, it will be the second consecutive year he’s started the campaign with this status. Back in 2019, Michel was one of six players on the roster who started on PUP. Demaryius Thomas, special teamer Nate Ebner, defensive end Dietrich Wise, cornerback Ken Webster, and tackle Cole Croston. Rookie offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste were the others.
Last year, Michel’s knee was the issue, but now it’s his foot which makes you think his body is on the decline. Adam Levitan of Establish the Run dug deep to expose Michel’s troubling injury history.
If Michel cannot go, the Patriots will obviously look to the veteran running back James White to take some of those reps. However, the man in the best position to step into Michel’s role as the primary back is second-year-pro Damien Harris.
CLNS’ Evan Lazar believes Michel will be ready for Week 1 of the regular season, but he also doesn’t expect a huge improvement from Michel, whom he said “kinda is who he is at this point.”
That would seemingly create an opportunity for Harris to at least wrestle away some carries. How will Harris react if he’s suddenly placed into a position to step up?
“All I worry about every single day is improving as a player and doing whatever this team needs me to do,” Harris said to Mass Live. “If my name or number ever gets called, I try to be as ready as I can. As far as worrying about ‘Am I going to play or am I not going to play?’ — this, that, those are things I don’t have time to worry about.”
At the end of the 2019 season, Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears was complimentary of Harris. In the interview below with ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Fears talked Harris up but pointed to the team’s health in the backfield during the regular season as part of the reason the Alabama product hadn’t contributed more.
“(Harris) has done everything we’ve asked him to,” Fears said. “He’s working hard. He really is. 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 in the game, and we’ve got some guys that do a lot of work on special teams. Until he develops a role there, then he gets a chance to be part of that game-day roster.”
You can see the interview here:
If Michel is still showing lingering effects in the beginning of the 2020 seasons, those injuries Fears talked about just might have made their way to the Patriots’ backfield.
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