The New England Patriots running back group is deep, and there is a chance that depth will get tested in the preseason and early regular season. Sony Michel, the 25-year-old veteran running back who has led the Patriots in rushing the past two seasons is reportedly recovering from offseason foot surgery.
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How Much Time Will Michel Miss?
According to reports, the surgery was described as “maintenance-based” to help take away some discomfort. With the team set to hit training camp late next month, Michel has headed to Foxboro to continue his recovery.
At this point, it is unclear how much time he’d miss during training camp, preseason, or even the regular season, but for now, there is a chance he could be placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list when training camp begins.
Michel has yet to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a single season, but he did improve his yards per carry average from 3.7 in his rookie season to 4.5 in 2019, and that came with Tom Brady under the center and the team using a more pass-focused attack.
With Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer as the QB in 2020, the Patriots are expected to use a more run-heavy offense and Michel is in a position to carry a much heavier load. Knee injuries have hampered him a bit during his career, but have rarely caused him to miss games.
If Michel is unable to start training camp and misses preseason, his lack of football preparation could lead to a loss of reps early in the season–even if he is healthy.
Who Would Replace Michel?
The Patriots’ running backs are seen as arguably the strongest position group on the roster. Aside from Michel, New England has veteran leader and talented receiving back, James White.
There’s the versatile and locker-room-friendly Rex Burkhead, special teams ace Branden Bolden, promising second-year player Damien Harris, and intriguing undrafted rookie, J.J. Taylor.
There is a chance all six players could make the team, and if Michel cannot go, Harris seems like the guy who would get the majority of his reps. He was a third-round pick out of Alabama in 2019, but he only played in two games last season.
The Patriots hope to have him prove his success wasn’t a product of playing on such a talented offense.
Can the Patriots Absorb the Loss?
With so many players at the head coach Bill Belichick’s disposal, you’d have to believe the team has the depth to absorb Michel’s loss.
Because of White’s leadership, and what could be a strong offensive line if David Andrews can return, the Patriots should have the studs and leadership to provide Stidham or Hoyer the proper support.
It’s a good sign that Michel is already in Foxboro which gives some hope that the team won’t have to look down the depth chart to find someone to provide his production.