Patriots RB Sony Michel’s absence Monday against the Chiefs should open the door for Damien Harris to get some carries.
The Patriots needed all hands on deck following Cam Newton’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis leading up to their now-Monday night matchup with the undefeated Chiefs. While they lucked out in terms of having zero subsequent positive tests, the same cannot be said for the injury front.
Per multiple reports, the Patriots will be without their two leading rushers against Kansas City, as running back Sony Michel, who was listed as questionable heading into the weekend with a quad injury following three limited practice sessions, has been downgraded to out.
Michel is coming off a huge game versus Las Vegas in which he took nine carries for 117 yards, so his absence will obviously be felt in the running game. However, him missing out could very well open the door for Damien Harris to be activated and further prove himself following an impressive training camp.
The timing of Michel’s surprise absence couldn’t have been more ideal for Harris, who was placed on injured reserve to start the season due to a hand injury and is finally eligible to return to the 53-man roster. However, while the 2019 third-round pick began practicing on Wednesday, there’s still no guarantee that we see him against the Chiefs.
To put it simply, we would vehemently disagree with Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots’ coaching staff if Harris doesn’t see the field. The Alabama product was all the rage throughout camp and was in legitimate contention to win the No. 1 RB job before his hand injury derailed any chance of that happening.
The Patriots currently have a logjam at running back, as James White, Rex Burkhead, JJ Taylor and (potentially) Harris could all be in the mix on Monday night. Believe it or not, we would argue that the latter is the most polished and dynamic every-down running back of the group.
White is incredibly shifty, but we all know he’s better suited being deployed as a receiver out of the backfield. Burkhead is a seasoned veteran and had a great game in Week 3, but do fans really want him handling the majority of carries? The answer is no. Taylor, meanwhile, has shown flashes in his limited workload thus far, but he’s a largely unproven and undersized rookie.
The bottom line is that the Patriots have nothing to lose — and potentially everything to gain — by rolling Harris out there. We’re not demanding that the former Crimson Tide star, who will likely be extremely rusty given that he returned to practice in the middle of the week, receive 20 touches.
However, with Michel sidelined, there is simply no excuse for Harris, assuming he plays a major role for the rest of the season, to not be activated and get some run in against the defending champs.