Patriots: What’s the plan for stacked Pats running back room?

Patriots RB JJ Taylor (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Patriots RB JJ Taylor (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots rolled over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday in one of the most uneven preseason games we can recall watching.

It was simply a great performance from Bill Belichick’s side, though Cam Newton and Mac Jones didn’t make the head coach’s decision on who should win the quarterback job any easier with the performances they turned in.

While the Patriots’ QB competition will draw most of the headlines, we were left equally intrigued by the showing from New England’s running backs.

Though it’s a great problem to have, it’s unfortunate for Belichick in the sense that he’ll have another cutthroat decision to make.

Based on training camp and preseason — and Thursday’s win helped hammer this point home — each one of Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson and JJ Taylor are deserving of a roster spot.

Of course, only three or four will make the 53-man cutoff. With that in mind, we can’t help but wonder what the plan is.

How is the Patriots’ RB rotation going to pan out?

Damien Harris is obviously a lock to make the final roster and he looked ready to assume the starting role, rushing for a five-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give the Patriots an early advantage.

Sony Michel, meanwhile, took seven carries for 35 yards (4.9 YPC). The 2018 first-rounder also continued to show that he’s improved as a pass-catcher, hauling in all four of his targets for 37 yards.

Is Michel merely bolstering his trade value or do the Pats see him as insurance for Harris, who’s missed time with injury in each of his first two years?

Then you get to Rhamondre Stevenson, who picked up where he left off in Week 1 by scoring two more TDs and rushing for 66 yards on 15 carries. Unfortunately for the rookie, however, he committed a fumble in the fourth quarter.

Could that land him in Belichick’s doghouse or has Stevenson’s stellar play given him a long enough leash to where he can survive one mistake? Is he about to get Jonas Gray’d?

Last, but not certainly not least, is JJ Taylor, who turned in the most impressive performance of the group. The 2020 undrafted rookie rushed 12 times for a team-high 93 yards and a touchdown, adding three receptions for 18 yards.

Taylor is undersized, but he certainly looks like he can be an effective change-of-pace back behind Harris and whomever claims the No. 2 spot.

For those wondering about James White, the Patriots understandably didn’t play him a lot of snaps. The 29-year-old vet knows the playbook like the back of his hand, so he really has nothing to prove.

However, in light of the emergence of Taylor and Stevenson, could White see a reduced role in his seventh season?

These are all questions Belichick will have to answer over the next two weeks. The 53-man deadline is on Aug. 31, and right now Harris might be the only member of the group whose role for 2021 is set in stone.