The New England Patriots made some uncharacteristically big moves in free agency this past offseason, doling out a combined $25 million per year for new tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and acquiring offensive tackle and absolute unit Trent Brown from the Raiders in a trade.
After running two-tight end sets at a league-low rate of 2% in 2020 (second-lowest was the Bills at 12%), the Pats' signings are signaling a return to heavy personnel groupings and smashmouth football. The last time we saw an omen this big for a Damien, he ended up being the Antichrist.
With Michel gone, preseason MVP Rhamondre Stevenson likely steps into that role, but shouldn't be too big of a threat to steal workload from Harris for a couple of reasons. First, Bill Belichick has a history of giving rookie running backs limited touches. Also, Stevenson has ball-security problems, fumbling the football 10 times in college on 501 touches, and once in the Patriots' preseason game against the Eagles (Harris fumbled twice on 528 touches at Alabama and once in 146 touches in the NFL).
Harris' real competition for rushing attempts is quarterback Cam Newton, whose 137 carries last season tied Harris for the team lead. However, much like Thanos, Mac Jones is ... inevitable. The 15th pick in this year's draft (and college teammate of Harris) looked extremely sharp in preseason action, completing a nice 69.2% of passes and leading the offense to scores on eight of his 10 drives. Following Newton's disappointing 2020 campaign (8 TD/10 INT), it feels like the snaps will belong to Jones sooner rather than later.
Three weeks ago, Harris's odds to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns were +8000. Those odds have plummeted all the way down to +3000, yet his total rushing yards prop remained static at 825.5 yards. I'm locking in my bet on the over right now, before we see any more movement on his props.
Stats provided by SharpFootball and pro football reference