The New England Patriots have a lot of questions to answer before the end of training camp.
Though Cam Newton appears to be the favorite, the team obviously has to name a starting quarterback.
The same goes for the running back and linebacker positions. You could even question whether they have to sort out the defensive line and cornerback rotations.
For now, however, let’s focus on the running back situation. As things stand, Damien Harris is leading the way to be named the starter after he finished as the Patriots’ top rusher last campaign, tallying 691 yards and two touchdowns on 5.0 yards per carry.
Behind Harris, the Patriots unfortunately have a logjam with Sony Michel, James White Rhamondre Stevenson and JJ Taylor competing for snaps. With so many mouths to feed, it wouldn’t be surprising if New England moved off one of them before trimming the roster down to 53.
Well, ESPN insider Mike Reiss seems to think that’s in the cards. Nominated as the Patriots’ participant for a roundtable “Bold NFL training camp predictions for all 32 teams” story, Reiss named Michel as the odd man out, going as far as to say Michel could be traded.
Could ESPN’s bold prediction for Sony Michel come to fruition?
To be more specific, Reiss predicts Michel will be dealt to an RB-needy team.
"“Coach Bill Belichick raved about Damien Harris in the first week of training camp, and once fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson came off the non-football injury list a few days into practices, it highlighted how deep the Patriots are at running back. That sparks a question as to where Michel fits, with Harris and Stevenson roster locks, and receiving back James White, core special teamer/backup Brandon Bolden and sparkplug J.J. Taylor also on the depth chart. Michel, a first-round pick in 2018, could be the odd man out.”"
Patriots fans would be hard-pressed to disagree with Reiss’ analysis. We forgot to mention Bolden as someone who could take up a roster spot for his contributions on special teams and around the goal line. The Pats can only carry so many running backs on the final roster, and Michel could have another hurdle to clear if Bolden’s given serious consideration.
While we have the utmost respect for Michel, he really blew his chance to become the team’s featured back. Since being taken in the first round back in 2018, the Georgia product has struggled with both injuries and efficiency. For context, he averaged a lousy 3.7 yards per carry in his first full season as a starter in 2019 and has appeared in 38 of a possible 48 regular season games in three years.
Michel has also started just 28 of those games. That probably isn’t the return the Pats were expecting when they invested a first-round draft pick in him.
Luckily for New England, however, there are teams around the league in need of RB help, like the Rams, who lost projected starter Cam Akers to a torn Achilles at the start of camp.
We’re not going to run through the full list of teams, but you get the point.
The way we see it, the only thing that could save Michel from being dealt is having a strong training camp (which he is), and if Bill Belichick and Co. have any real concerns about Harris’ durability after he struggled with injuries over his first two seasons.
Either way, Reiss knows what he’s talking about, so don’t be shocked if Michel’s traded.