The New England Patriots’ running back room is crowded, as per usual — but this group could make or break the success of Bill Belichick’s team in 2019.
The New England Patriots offense rolled through the playoffs a season ago not just because of Tom Brady, but because of their running attack. Rookie Sony Michel proved why he was a first-round choice by the Patriots when he carried the offense, scoring six playoff rushing touchdowns (a rookie record), including the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LIII.
Michel showed that he can be a workhouse for the Patriots and would have hit 1,000 yards in his first season if it wasn’t for missing three games. As long as he stays healthy, he is going to run for 1,000 yards at least in his sophomore campaign. He isn’t a question mark for the Pats’ running back situation — and neither is James White.
White is a stud and proved that in Super Bowl LI. Last season when the Patriots were struggling out the gate, they began to utilize White and got back to the Patriot Way. White and Julian Edelman became the two guys they needed to be successful, especially the receiving specialist out of the backfield.
He caught 87 balls for 751 yards and seven touchdowns. For good measure, White also added 94 carries that went for 425 yards and five scores. It seems people didn’t realize that White scored 12 touchdowns as a whole, but his production confirms his value to the New England offense.
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The primary question in the running back room comes down to Rex Burkhead and rookie Damien Harris out of Alabama. Burkhead has proved his worth for the Patriots in the past two seasons, working as a change of pace from Dion Lewis in 2017 or Michel last year. However, he becomes a bit expendable after the Patriots drafted a running back for the second straight year.
Harris was possibly the most underrated rusher in the entire 2019 NFL Draft. He split time with Josh Jacobs at Alabama but continuously provided better numbers. Jacobs went in the first round to Oakland while Harris lasted until the third round for the Patriots to take. They were on the same Alabama team for three years, with Harris recording two 1,000-yard seasons and Jacobs recording none.
Harris will be a great replacement Michel if he ever goes down due to injury, which he has struggled with in the past. Moreover, Harris isn’t a total loss in the passing game. He can be the one to spell Michel while James White plays the passing downs.
With that said, the Patriots rushing attack is prepared to have its best year in a long time. Burkhead may be on his way out when the final cuts come around, but other than that, the running back situation is it’s healthiest and best ever in New England.