Sony Michel is the key to the Patriots’ offensive production in 2020
By Dan Orencole
After some struggles in his second season with the Patriots, Sony Michel is set to be the offensive key for New England this coming year.
In the 2019 season, Sony Michel struggled greatly at times — and it showed with his 3.7 average yards per carry, ranked 40th in the league.
He finished the year with 247 attempts (9th), 912 yards (17th) and seven touchdowns (14th) on the ground and paced the way for the 18th-ranked rushing offense with 1,703 total rush yards and 106.4 rush yards per game.
If the New England Patriots return to the postseason again, Michel is going to be the offensive weapon that leads the way.
As is the key to any run game, it all starts up front. The return of Isaiah Wynn paid dividends to the ground game and it showed in Michel’s stats towards the conclusion of the season.
In the eight games that Wynn started and played 100 percent of the snaps: Week 1, Weeks 12-17, and the playoff loss against the Tennessee Titans, Michel was in form. His stats were much better –even taking into account the season opener, in which he only had 15 carries for 14 yards.
Michel ran for 472 yards on 107 rushing attempts for an average of 4.4 yards per carry with Wynn fully in the lineup. Those statistics would’ve placed him T-10th in average yards per carry. The running backs he would’ve been tied with are Chris Carson, Marlon Mack, Jordan Howard, Carlos Hyde, and Latavius Murray.
In terms of workload, Michel had more rushing attempts than 17 of the players ranked ahead of him on the yards per carry list.
So with a full season with Wynn and what is set to be an improved offensive line in 2020, Michel is in position for an elite 2020 season. If he doesn’t have a big year, his job security may come into question.
The Patriots used the franchise tag on Joe Thuney earlier this year and there was much speculation that New England was going to trade the 27-year-old guard leading up to or during the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots didn’t trade Thuney and now there seems to be a growing possibility that the Patriots could extend his deal, with the deadline for that being 4 p.m. on July 15.
Thuney is a key component to the offensive line and it will be a situation to monitor going forward based on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s history with paying players elite money.
This past season Thuney posted his best Pro Football Focus grade of his career, just missing the 80.0 mark in terms of overall grade. He was the No. 5-ranked guard overall with a score of 77.4. Thuney was ranked the No. 8 free agent on offense.
Additionally, David Andrews will be returning this season for the Patriots — arguably the biggest offseason addition. Last year, Andrews sat out the season due to blood clots in his lungs, but he has since said he hopes to return to the field in 2020.
The center position anchors the offensive line, so getting Andrews back is a big boost from his replacement Ted Karras, who graded out as the 18th-ranked center among the 32 in the NFL during 2019.
Prior to sitting out last season, Andrews was graded as the best center in the AFC East in 2018 with a 70.8 overall grade. Furthermore, in the Patriots’ Super Bowl run capped off with the 10-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams, Andrews graded out as the best center in the postseason with a grade of 75.8.
Andrews’ return will be the biggest boost on the offensive line this season.
In the draft, the Patriots took a pair of tight ends, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. Both of these guys are big tight ends: Keene at 6’4” and 253 lbs, and Asiasi at 6’3” and 257 lbs.
With their size — and with tight ends being considered an extension of the offensive line often — it’s clear Belichick is hoping to build a strong offensive line to protect potential first-year starter Jarrett Stidham and also pave the way for the ground game.
Everything is set for Sony Michel to have a big bounce-back year in 2020. With inexperienced play and uncertainty at quarterback, the offensive production for the New England Patriots will fall squarely on the shoulders (and legs) of No. 26.