Patriots Off-Season Profiles: Sony Michel and the Running Backs
Foxborough, MA– In the history of the New England Patriots dynasty, Super Bowl championships have been won by the team thanks to good defenses, electric passing games, and rock solid coaching in the rapport between franchise quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. To win, the Patriots have never had to rely too heavily on their run game.
In the 2018 season, however, New England found themselves leaning on the team's rushers in key situations. In an era in which high-producing bell cow running backs are a dime a dozen and players like James Conner can replace Le'Veon Bell for the Pittsburgh Steelers to not lose a step in their high octane offense, the Patriots have never relied on the backfield more. And it keeps proving valuable for them.
Many questioned the Patriots' decision to draft running back Sony Michel last year, especially as the season continued and Michel seemed to be something of a liability with his inability to catch passes and his willingness to go down on first contact.
Michel was Boston's most conventional running back since Laurence Maroney, and he wound up being their most talented since Corey Dillon. He took a little while to get going, but the Patriots found a rushing attack down opposing defenses' throats to be the best course of action. They leaned into him in the second half of the season, as Michel rushed for as many touchdowns in the playoffs as he did during the regular season, with six. He racked up 931 yards during 13 games of the regular season and added 336 more in three post-season games. Michel definitely figures in as a crucial member of the team going forward.
On the other hand, running back James White went in the other direction as the Patriots' premier pass catcher and, arguably, their best passing option. He racked up 1,176 total yards in the 2018 season, which was more than any other season of his by about 400 yards. With 87 receptions during the season, White led the team in the category and he just might be their most valuable backfield option going forward.
As for New England's other runners, they did not pick up Jeremy Hill, and they reinstated Rex Burkhead as a change of pace back when he returned from his neck injury. James Develin is one of the league's best goal line fullbacks, and Brandon Bolden provides necessary depth to the team. New England's runners are not league-wide stars, but they definitely round out a core element of the team that has not always been reliable.