The New England Patriots held their first fully padded practice of the 2020 season on Monday. Notably, 2018 first-round running back, Sony Michel, was absent as he remains on the PUP list while rehabbing from foot surgery. As currently constituted, the Patriots backfield is crowded with bodies and after signing another veteran runner in Lamar Miller, Michel has suddenly found himself battling for a roster spot.
New England Patriots Roster Bubble: Sony Michel
Michel’s Roller Coaster Career
Michel burst onto the scene his rookie season, appearing in 13 games and running for 931 yards on just 209 attempts. After averaging 4.5 yards per carry en route to a Super Bowl victory, Michel fell victim to the dreaded “sophomore slump” in 2019. While Michel, statistically, had a decent 2019 season in which he appeared in all 16 games and rushed for 912 yards on 247 attempts, his game tape tells a different story.
Michel’s 2019 film told a story of a back who benefited greatly from an elite 2018 offensive line group who opened up gaping holes. However, after losing key pieces such as David Andrews and Trent Brown for the 2019 season, Michel’s lack of burst, agility, and inability to make defenders miss were all exposed. Additionally, Michel failed to make the jump within New England’s passing game as he dropped several catchable passes and eventually was largely phased out of spread formations by the conclusion of the season.
Michel’s Chronic Injury History
Michel’s injury history has been well documented and dates back to his time at Georgia as well as high school. As a high school sophomore, Michel suffered a torn ACL, the first of many future lower-body injuries. Throughout his collegiate career, Michel dealt with several low-grade ankle along with knee strains, causing him to miss games. Michel’s NFL career has been more of the same as the back had a procedure to drain fluid from his knee during his first training camp. Furthermore, Michel missed two games during that same season with an additional knee injury. Despite a relatively healthy 2019 season, Michel underwent yet another surgery in May of this offseason to address a nagging foot injury. Moreover, nearly three months after foot surgery, Michel has been placed on the PUP list to start training camp with another foot issue.
At just 25 years old, Michel’s durability is a huge question mark moving forward. Additionally, these injuries do not appear to be freak accidents. Michel has established a clear pattern of chronic lower body injuries over the course of his football career and at his young age, these injuries are a huge red flag. With experienced veterans in the running back room and after drafting Alabama’s Damien Harris last year, New England could opt to part ways with Michel sooner rather than later. As fans, we have seen Bill Belichick make unexpected roster moves numerous times over the past two decades. Belichick will not keep a player on the roster if he feels they have not earned a spot, even if that player is just two years removed from being taken in the first round.
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