Despite getting activated from injured reserve prior to last Sunday’s game, Patriots running back Sony Michel was a gameday scratch against the Texans.
That should not be the case this week. Michel is expected to play when the Patriots host the Cardinals on Sunday.
“He’s had a couple of good weeks (of practice),” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters Friday. “I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Michel’s missed the Patriots’ last seven games due to a quad injury. During his time on injured reserve, Michel reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 but has since recovered.
Since his solid rookie season, Michel has struggled to be an effective top running back for the Patriots. In 2019, he rushed for 912 yards on an unimpressive 3.7 yards per carry. In his first two games this season, Michel rushed for just 56 yards on 17 carries (3.3 yards per carry). Michel did show some promise the last time he was on the field, rushing for 117 yards on just nine carries in the Patriots’ 36-20 win over the Raiders in Week 3.
The return of Michel also comes at a key time for New England. Running back Rex Burkhead is done for the season after suffering a knee injury (which the team reportedly believes to be a torn ACL) in last week’s loss to the Texans.
Second-year running back Damien Harris has emerged in Michel’s absence. Harris has rushed for 514 yards in the Patriots’ last seven games, including three games where he’s rushed for 100-plus yards. Harris has led the way for the Patriots’ ground game that’s averaging 153.6 yards per game this season, the fourth-best in the NFL.
The Patriots’ usually strong ground game failed to make much of an impact against the Texans last week. They rushed for just 86 yards on 24 carries (3.6 yards per carry) against a Texans team that entered last week’s game with the worst rush defense in the league. Burkhead left the game early in the third quarter, which may have altered the Patriots’ gameplan.
In addition to Harris, Michel joins James White and J.J. Taylor as the other active running backs on the Patriots’ roster. With White primarily being used as a receiver out of the backfield and with Taylor not playing since Week 3, it’s reasonable to think that Michel could see the usage Burkhead got prior to his injury.
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