Patriots running back Sony Michel had foot surgery in June. Will he be ready for the start of the season? Here are Michel’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his over/under yardage total.
Michel was never the clear-cut featured back at Georgia because Nick Chubb also was there. In fact, those two finished with 8,259 career rushing yards, surpassing Eric Dickerson and Craig James’ FBS record of 8,192.
Michel was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the 31st overall pick. One implication of drafting him that high is getting a fifth-year option on his contract. Between the end of the 2020 season and the start of the 2021 season, they will have to decide whether they want to lock him up for a fifth year.
Michel was the third running back to be selected that year and he and offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn were the first pair of college teammates selected by the same team in the first round since Auburn players Jason Campbell and Carlos Rogers were taken in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
In his first training camp with the Pats, Michel suffered a knee injury and missed Week 1. He would finish the year with 931 rushing yards and six touchdowns along with seven receptions for 50 yards and returned four kickoffs for 77 yards.
Michel blew up in those playoffs, rushing for 336 yards on 71 carries, adding six rushing touchdowns, including the lone score on a 2-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots the lead in the Super Bowl LIII victory vs. the Los Angeles Rams. Michel’s six postseason rushing touchdowns set an NFL record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie in a single postseason and is second to Terrell Davis (8) for the most rushing touchdowns overall in a single postseason.
Much more was expected from Michel in Year 2 after his big postseason the year before, but Michel put up similar stats with 912 rushing yards and seven touchdowns along with 12 receptions for 94 yards. Michel pick ranked 46th out of 61 qualifying running backs in Pro Football Focus’ elusive rating and only averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
In the Wild-Card loss to Tennessee, Michel carried the ball 14 times for 61 rushing yards with a long of 25 yards and catching two passes for nine receiving yards.
In May, Michel underwent foot surgery. He also has notoriously battled chronic knee injuries dating back to high school but has only missed three games in his professional career. It’s not a sure thing that Michel is ready for the regular season. How Michel progresses in rehab will ultimately determine whether he starts training camp on the physically unable to perform list. While most players haven’t be allowed to use NFL team facilities until training camp, guys who are rehabbing injuries have been permitted to work with trainers, so Michel has taken advantage of that.
If Michel does begin the 2020 season on the PUP list, it will be the second consecutive year he’s started the campaign with this status. Back in 2019, Michel was one of six players on the roster who started on PUP.
Michel remains in line for 200 carries if upright for a full 16 games. The Patriots figure to run more this year with Tom Brady gone. In addition to Michel, the Patriots have James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor on the running back depth chart.
Harris, a 2019 third-rounder, was essentially red shirted in his rookie year, playing only five offensive snaps and appearing in two games. Running backs coach Ivan Fears said late last season that the Patriots were pleased with Harris, but that he was buried on the depth chart behind four quality backs/special-teams contributors.
The Patriots are 6.5-point home favorites for Week 1 vs. Miami in what should be Cam Newton’s debut for New England.