The Patriots have a starting running back in Damien Harris, and that’s not going to change.
Though a laundry list of injuries have affected Damien Harris during his young NFL career, the New England Patriots know they have a No. 1 running back in the former Alabama star. He further drilled that into their heads with his performance on Sunday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens.
Now we can see why the coaching staff was hyping him up during training camp. However, this drastically shifts the balance of power in the Patriots backfield. Sony Michel hasn’t seen the field since Week 3, and each game he’s on the bench while Harris is producing is terrible for his stock.
After Michel’s unimpressive 2019 campaign and more injury troubles/missed time this year, it’s clear Harris has made the decision easy for the Patriots. New England likely won’t be picking up Michel’s fifth-year option in the offseason.
Michel is under contract for 2021 (so perhaps he’s a trade candidate?) but there’s no chance Bill Belichick will be keeping the former first-round pick on the roster at an exponentially higher price tag when he’s only regressing as another cheaper (and better) option continues to emerge.
Over the last six weeks, Harris has three 100-yard rushing performances. Michel has one of those since the start of the 2019 season and it came against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3. At this point, Harris clearly is the more explosive runner and possesses much better vision.
It’s hard to use the excuse that Michel’s been slowed by injuries and has missed time after being placed on the COVID-19 list, because Harris has gone through the same story since the start of his rookie season last year. He’s just been better.
The crazy part is that his line (21 carries for 125 yards) likely would’ve been even better against the Ravens if Baltimore wasn’t stacking the box excessively in the fourth quarter as they anticipated runs while the Patriots were eating clock and working to hold onto their lead.
When Michel’s fifth-year option is officially rejected in the offseason, we can circle back and remember this game that sealed the decision.