Patriots Key Offensive Weapon Could Miss Week 1

Getty Damien Harris

The New England Patriots seemed primed to hand a ton of the responsibility at running back over to second-year-pro Damien Harris. That may still happen, but the Alabama product’s time to shine may not come in Week 1. Per ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss, Harris is dealing with a hand injury that could keep him out of the season opener against the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins.

Reiss wrote:

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris, who is projected to have a significant role, has been sidelined with a hand injury that could threaten his availability for the season opener, according to a league source. Harris hasn’t been at the Patriots’ past two practices. He was primed to join Sony Michel as part of the Patriots’ top running back duo, but that is now in question for the Sept. 13 opener against the Miami Dolphins.

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Who Will Start if Damien Harris Is Unable to Go in Week 1?

The starting running back situation could be a little tricky. Normally, it would have been Sony Michel, who despite Harris’ surge in training camp, might still have been in the RB1 slot on the Patriots’ depth chart, but he too is recovering from an injury.

Michel had surgery during the offseason for an injured knee and was on the Physically Unable to Perform list until the last week in August. There is a question as to whether he will be ready to go in time for Week 1.

There’s also the newly signed Lamar Miller. However, he too recently emerged from the PUP list after being cleared to practice following surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in a preseason game ahead of the 2019 season. Like Michel, his availability for Week 1 is in question. That would leave the Patriots with either Rex Burkhead or James White as the guys getting the bulk of the carries and touches out of the backfield.


The Patriots’ Packed Running Back Room

As you can see, the Patriots have no shortage of capable players at running back when healthy. The injuries might open a spot for undrafted free agent J.J. Taylor to secure a spot on the team, though he might still be on the bubble.

The 5’5″ spark plug has drawn comparisons to former Patriot running back Dion Lewis from position coach Ivan Fears. Taylor seems like the kind of guy who could become a fan favorite because of his physical stature and playing style. This might be his opportunity to shine. The 53-man rosters will be shared on Saturday, September 5 and the Patriots open the season on Sunday, September 13 at home against the Dolphins.

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