Damien Harris is RB1 and Sony Michel Isn't Taking That Back

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Damien Harris is the number one running back on the Patriots depth chart and there is no debate.  Since returning from IR he has been one of the most consistent pieces on the Patriots offense.  This past Sunday night, he was one of the biggest reasons the Patriots beat the Ravens on SNF. 

Photo courtesy of cbssports.com

On Sunday night, Harris punched the Ravens in the mouth.  He had 22 carries and 121 yards against the Ravens defense.  Harris has three games of 100 rushing yards or more this season, only Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry and Ronald Jones II have more.  We also need to keep in mind that Harris has only six career starts,  and with these numbers he's producing he'll hang on to that number one spot. 

The Patriots have a decision to make very soon.  Do they activate Sony Michel from IR?  If Head Coach Bill Belichick activates Michel, there is zero chance he regains the No. 1 spot on the depth chart at running back.  A player should never lose their starting role due to injury, well unless you're Drew Bledsoe.  That decision to keep playing Tom Brady seemed to work out. 

In this case, the situation is a lot different.  Harris is producing on the field and Michel wasn't prior to his quad injury.  Michel hasn't played since Week 3 against the Raiders as he was placed on injured reserve before the Chiefs game in Week 4.

Michel has rushed for over 900 yards in each of his first two seasons in New England.  He had 26 carries for 173 yards in the first three weeks of the season.  His best game was his last one, with nine carries for 117 yards against the Raiders.  Since then, he has been on the COVID-19/IR list and the actual IR list for a quad injury

While Michel has been on IR, the Patriots have flat out been better offensively.  If they activate him it will not only impact Harris, but also Rex Burkhead and James White.  Burkhead has been extremely versatile on offense for the Patriots.  He's been a red zone threat.  He has been a change of pace back and has been able to leg out additional yards. 

Burkhead is second on the team with rushing touchdowns behind Cam Newton and he leads the team in touchdown receptions with three.  Adding Michel back into the mix impacts the production from the other players in the backfield. 

The Patriots have competition at running back, and that isn't a bad thing.  My concern is how do you fit Michel into the puzzle when he returns.  “The best thing for our team is competition,” said McDaniels.  “I think we have a competitive group of backs and a competitive group in a lot of areas.  I think that only makes the players better."

Ultimately the player who is squeezed off the main roster feels like JJ Taylor.  He hasn't been active since Week 3 when the Patriots played Las Vegas at home. 

Harris needs to remain the focal point of the Patriots running game.  The Michel experiment needs to take a back seat for the remainder of the season unless Harris gets hurt.  The Patriots have a ground and pound running back in Harris and the results are evident on the field.  He is RB1 on the depth chart and whatever happens to Michel isn't his problem. 


Follow Chris on Twitter @chrishenrique

Check out Fire the Muskets, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the New England Patriots and the rest of the NFL.  Follow our Fire the Muskets on Twitter @FireTheMuskets

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Damien Harris is RB1 and Sony Michel Isn't Taking That Back
Damien Harris is RB1 and Sony Michel Isn't Taking That Back
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