With the New England Patriots’ run game not performing all that well this season, why hasn’t the team turned to third-round draft pick Damien Harris at all?
New England Patriots rookie running back Damien Harris saw his first game action during Week 3 against the New York Jets. Will Harris get the chance to play against the Jets again on Monday Night Football?
When the Patriots drafted Damien Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, I thought he was going to be a role player… or a minor offensive contributor at the very least. But I was wrong.
Harris got in on his first game action during Week 3 against the New York Jets when he played five snaps on special teams. Considering where the Pats are in regards to their running game at this point in the season, why haven’t they used Harris more?
On draft night, the selection of Harris left me optimistic about the running back rotation and packages. I thought Sony Michel and Harris could have been a really nice duo, similar to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara down in New Orleans last season.
Rex Burkhead is a very good all-around back who can do it all, similar to James White. The only difference is Burkhead is usually on the injury report, whereas White has managed to stay largely healthy throughout his career. Brandon Bolden was brought back home after a brief Miami getaway. He’s more of a specialist, but this season he’s shown how good his footwork truly is.
Unfortunately the running game for the Patriots has become somewhat predictable.
When Sony Michel is in the game, the Pats are more than likely going to run the ball; although Michel saw a career high in targets and catches two weeks ago (three catches on three targets for 32 yards).
When James White is in the game, the Pats are more than likely going to pass the ball, even though White has proven to be effective on the ground; he’s notably never committed a fumble, which we all know is crucial to how Bill Belichick evaluates the running back position.
Rex Burkhead gives the Patriots many different options for Josh McDaniels to use their playbook. He’s very effective in both the running and passing games, and the Patriots use him heavily in both phases. So when Burkhead is healthy and able to play, he gives the Pats offense that sort of ‘unpredictable’ style that they have been lacking this season. He’ll also throw blocks and go at it with a linebacker fearlessly.
It could be said with no argument that the loss of James Develin has affected the ground game for the Pats. Sony Michel is most effective when running behind his lead-block. The team’s backup fullback Jakob Johnson has also ended up on IR, leaving the Pats without a true fullback on their active roster. Belichick has previously said that “you can’t replace a guy like James Develin,” per WEEI’s Andy Hart.
I don’t see how Damien Harris could be any less effective than what we’ve seen through the first six weeks of the season from the running game. Harris’ ability to accelerate to top speed quickly is second to none, and it could be an asset for the Pats. I noticed during the preseason that Harris runs precise routes and can catch the ball to go along with running it. If anything, his fresh legs from time to time would be an upgrade, right?
Bill Belichick doesn’t usually draft a player and then not use him. I think sometime this season Harris will start being more involved in the offense. This could be a result of game-planning or even just preserving their “new toy” for later on in the season and for the playoffs. But the Patriots have nothing to lose by playing Damien Harris.