Just imagine how good the Patriots backfield will be when it’s at full strength.
Through three games in 2020, the New England Patriots boast the best rushing attack in the NFL. They’re averaging 178 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry and there’s no clear No. 1 back in the Cam Newton-led offense. And guess what? It’s only going to get better.
Bill Belichick’s team isn’t even at full strength! Damien Harris has still yet to appear in a game after being placed on injured reserve with a finger injury and James White has missed the last two games following the tragic death of his father. When those guys return, this backfield will be the most dynamic in the league without question.
The coaching staff was wildly impressed with Harris in training camp, so his potential return in Week 4 has everyone on their toes.
"“I’m really excited — excited about having Damien back if we can get him back,” running backs coach Ivan Fears told Doug Kyed of NESN. “I think we’re all kind of anxious to see what he will do when it’s truly go time. Everything he’s shown has been outstanding. He having a great training camp, so it was kind of unfortunate to get a little finger injury before the opening game."
Harris brings a unique speed/power combination that could overtake Michel in the running back rotation since the Georgia product has been slowed by injuries since the start of 2019. That’s still up in the air, obviously, after Michel’s career day against the Raiders, but a fresh Harris was set to be a focal point of the rushing attack before he underwent surgery.
At the very least, it’ll be another set of powerful legs running behind another impressive edition of the Patriots offensive line.
As for White, while he’s mostly used as a receiving option, he’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry for his career (279 attempts). He’s not going to move the needle in an extreme way, but he’ll contribute in some capacity when it comes to keeping defenses off-balance in the running game. The Patriots have been giving him all the support he needs during this difficult time and are ready to welcome him back when he feels comfortable returning to the team.
"“I think I should let him answer how he’s doing,” Fears added. “All I can say is that we love them and we’re trying to be there for him. We really are. We’re looking forward to when he gets back, and we’ll take it from there. Whatever he needs, what we’re going to try to do. Whatever he needs.”"
But even if they don’t have White, just look at this distribution of rushing yards thus far:
- Sony Michel: 173 yards
- Cam Newton: 149 yards
- Rex Burkhead: 83 yards
- JJ Taylor: 70 yards
- James White: 22 yards (1 game)
Get Harris in there and give White some more touches and you’re looking at one of the most versatile rushing attacks opposing defenses will have headaches attempting to stop every week.