Approximately a month before training camp is set to start, the New England Patriots got some good news about a key part of their offense.
According to a report from NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, running back Sony Michel is back to running at “full tilt” and is “progressing quickly” from his offseason knee scope.
Michel had been a mysteriously absent from the team’s OTAs, and it wasn’t until after the minicamp that word got out about his knee surgery. Although scopes are among the least invasive procedures, no surgery should be taken lightly.
Getting back up to speed will be key for Michel, as the Patriots look to revamp their offense. With Rob Gronkowski retiring and a first-round selection spent on N’Keal Harry, things could look a lot different.
Even more concerning for Michel is that the competition at running back will be about as strong as it’s been since Belichick has been with the Patriots.
What is Michel’s fit in the new Patriots’ offense?
Teams have been wary of selecting running backs in the first round lately, but Michel lived up to the hype in his rookie season last year. Despite playing just 13 games and starting eight, Michel finished fourth among rookies with 931 yards and six scores. While he didn't break off many long runs, he was consistent.
There’s no doubt that he’ll figure in heavily into next season’s plans — especially with how often the Patriots are running the ball — but he could use a more versatile role.
As FiveThirtyEight’s Michael Salfino pointed out, the Patriots ran the ball 75.9 percent of the time last season when Michel was on the field. Even then, he only accrued 11 targets and pulled down seven receptions. Any increase in those numbers could have a big impact on the field, and he was an effective receiver during his sophomore and junior years at Georgia.
Not only will Michel be competing with leading pass-catcher James White and Rex Burkhead for snap next year, but the Patriots also drafted former Alabama back Damien Harris. The third-round pick has a similar skillset and pedigree, so full health will be key to asserting his dominance in the new-look offense.
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