Sony Michel will be relied upon more than ever in 2020 to serve as the primary engine of the New England Patriots offense.
With Tom Brady out of the picture in 2020, the New England Patriots offense really should flow through Sony Michel.
The third-year back out of Georgia has been criticized of late — perhaps unfairly — for an underwhelming sophomore campaign in the NFL. He didn’t hit the hole with the kind of conviction he regularly displayed as a Bulldog in college, and he still has yet to break off a run of more than 40 yards as a pro.
The Pats definitely need that kind of home run hitter at running back. With the Greatest of All Time playing QB for 20 years, New England didn’t really need an extremely impressive back. That’s why they were largely able to make do with talented pass-catching utility backs and the occasion goal-line thumper like LeGarrette Blount.
But it’s a new day and age with the uncertainty at quarterback in Foxborough. Now would be the ideal time for Michel to suddenly find his burst and explosiveness as the presumptive engine of the New England offense in 2020.
I only say “perhaps unfairly” earlier with regards to criticism of Michel because he’s actually racked up a decent amount of yards over his first two NFL seasons. He was 69 yards short of 1,000 yards as a rookie — and that was in just 13 games. Playing in all 16 games last year, he again fell just short of 1,000 yards, missing the total by 88 yards.
The thing that’s working against Michel is the overnight success that’s being enjoyed by other first-round running backs around the league in their first seasons out of the gate. Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb … all these guys entered the pros with similar, if not greater, expectations levied against them, and all have resoundingly answered the bell already.
It’s Michel’s turn to do so for the Patriots this year.
Best-case scenario projection for 2020
He needs to break 1,000 yards on the ground, for sure. He also needs to show he’s dramatically better at catching the ball out of the backfield. Defenses were able to stack the box against him last year because they didn’t respect him as a receiver — that changes with an improved receiving game from Michel and a healthier, better offensive line in front of him.
The O-line should be good to go. Now, it’s up to Michel to prove he can catch the ball if needed on occasion too. Hopefully, he’s working on just that this offseason.
Michel’s best-case scenario projection for this year would be something along the lines of 1,100 or 1,200 rushing yards, 100-200 receiving yards, and double-digit touchdowns. He’d also be greatly served by getting a Pro Bowl nod.
Worst-case scenario projection for 2020
It has to be getting his position usurped by Damien Harris, doesn’t it?
The former Alabama back was taken in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. While Harris barely even sniffed the field last year as a rookie, there’s a reason he was drafted in the first place. He’s talented enough to be an RB1 for the Patriots — and Michel knows it.
If Michel struggles to reclaim his college form in 2020 and/or fails to eclipse 1,000 yards on the ground once again, you’d best believe that Bill Belichick will turn the keys over to Damien Harris sooner than later.