Could Patriots RB Sony Michel’s new role help convince the coaching staff to keep him around?
The running back position has been a polarizing topic of conversation for the New England Patriots ever since Damien Harris started showing signs that he can be the No. 1 guy for the remainder of the 2020 season (and beyond).
His unexpected emergence left fans unsure of what kind of workload (if any) Sony Michel would be given once he was activated off injured reserve. While it’s clear that the 2018 first-round pick has taken a backseat to Harris, his snap count from Sunday indicates that the coaching staff might have found a new role for him.
What everyone will be wondering now is whether this new responsibility could help extend his stay with the Patriots.
It honestly depends on how effective he can be blocking and whether Michel is willing to take on a distant secondary role in the running game to Harris. If Sunday was any indication, however, he has a ton of potential as a blocking specialist on punt returns.
The Georgia product came into last weekend having played just four special teams snaps this season and 40 special teams snaps in 33 career games. He did, however, log a total of four snaps on the punt return team against the Chargers, and was responsible for laying a key block on Gunner Olszewski’s 70-yard touchdown return, which really helped break the game open early on in the second quarter.
When asked about Michel’s increased role on special teams, head coach Bill Belichick had nothing but positive things to say.
"“Yeah, we had a couple of examples of that on those, on a couple returns — just being a little more cautious there. But, yeah, Sony’s always had a role in the kicking game since his rookie year, since we got him, at least as a backup. So, he’s practiced there, he’s worked there and did a good job for us there.”"
Michel obviously has his limitations as a runner — both on the edge and between the tackles — but we can definitely get on board with a scenario that has him receiving 5-7 carries per game behind Harris while helping block for Newton/Harris on offense and wreaking havoc on special teams.
As long as the 25-year-old is alright with that, we really see no reason why he couldn’t keep his place on the Patriots when his rookie contract expires after the 2021 campaign. Not to mention, Michel’s market will certainly shrink if he’s taking on a much less integral role for the remainder of this season and next, so that’ll give the Pats a good opportunity to re-sign him after they likely reject his fifth-year option.