Patriots ’20 Questions: Can Sony Michel become elite, or will Damien Harris get his chance?

The Patriots are in the midst of the most interesting, important offseason in more than two decades. Tom Brady moved on to Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick remains in place with a veteran roster. There are plenty of questions and even more plentiful opinions regarding the defending AFC East champions. Over the next few weeks will ask and offer up answers to 20 of the most critical questions facing the 2020 Patriots.

Today’s question: Can/will Sony Michel become an elite running back or will Damien Harris get his chance in the running game?

Hannable: We're big Damien Harris fans and here's a bold prediction -- he will have more carries in 2020 than Sony Michel.

Michel is an average NFL running back who since he was selected in the first round, more is expected of him. He's a classic running back who gets what his line gives him and if he were a mid-round pick that would be fine. Harris only played in two games last year even though Michel did not really do much, but yet Bill Belichick stuck with him, likely because he was a first-round pick in 2018.

Harris seems to have had a good offseason, while Michel had foot surgery, so that could lead to more reps for Harris early in training camp. If he shows he can be productive, the team will be more likely to give him a chance and then he could be off from there. 

There's nothing wrong with having Michel on the team, just he probably isn't a lead back when someone like Harris is behind him.

Hart: Two years into his NFL career, I’m pretty confident saying that Michel is not an elite running back. Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t be productive. With a healthy, experienced offensive line set to hit the field in 2020, Michel may have more room to work. He may be able to show some of the workhorse production he put up in the postseason following his rookie season. Adding an athletic quarterback and new-look offense to the mix could also give Michel more opportunities to find room to work.

All that being said, I would very much like to see Harris get his opportunity this fall. Hell, I wanted to see him get a chance last year when he was essentially red-shirted as a third-round rookie. Harris was a good player at Alabama with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. His running mate for the Tide, Josh Jacobs is living his best life in Las Vegas as a featured back. Harris may not be as good as Jacobs, but he deserves the reps to prove what he can do. Michel has pretty much proven he’ll get what is blocked for him, nothing more. Harris might just have more of an ability to break tackles, make people miss and maximize runs. We’ll never know until he gets a chance to show his stuff. I hope he gets that chance early in 2020.

Who will have more carries this year -- Sony Michel or Damien Harris?

— The Off Day (@OffDayPod) July 16, 2020