Here’s why Patriots RB Damien Harris could break out in 2020.
There’s simply no hiding the fact that the New England Patriots are going to need players to step up this season. Not only did they lead the NFL with eight player opt-outs stemming from concerns over the global pandemic, but the team is also severely banged up heading into training camp.
Both are real problems that could potentially open the door for a slew of overlooked players to contribute in a big way this year. We’re not saying it’s a virtual lock to happen, but don’t be surprised if running back Damien Harris is one of them and bursts onto the scene as a sophomore in 2020.
While the Patriots clearly eased Harris in as a rookie last year, it’s worth noting he battled injuries that made it nearly impossible for him to carve out a role behind Sony Michel. However, the former Georgia Bulldog was placed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) right before the start of training camp following offseason foot surgery.
If Michel isn’t cleared by New England’s first official practice on Aug.12, Harris will have every opportunity to earn first-team reps. After all, in an ideal world, the Patriots would deploy the likes of James White and Rex Burkhead strictly as pass-catchers out of the backfield.
We’re also not afraid to admit that Michel wasn’t great last year. In fact, he was quite poor in the grand scheme of things. Despite being fed 247 carries, he rushed for just 917 yards. Folks, that equates to a woeful 3.7 yards per tote. The Pats’ offensive line didn’t perform great in 2019, but it’s long been speculated that Michel lacks the required agility and elusiveness to excel between the tackles. Last season might have proved his naysayers right.
Furthermore, veteran Brandon Bolden, who logged three rushing touchdowns in 2019, was one of the eight players to opt out of this season. That leaves White, Burkhead and undrafted rookie JJ Taylor as the only RBs on the Patriots depth chart at camp other than Harris.
Harris, the 2019-third round pick out of Alabama, appeared in just two regular season games in Year 1. However, he showed flashes in the preseason — he logged16 carries for 88 yards — before injuries affected his playing time.
Don’t be afraid to admit it. It’s really impossible to deny that the stars are aligning for Harris to be a potential sleeper candidate for the Patriots’ breakout player of the season. Buy stock while you still can.