Sunday 7: Patriots will have big decisions with running backs in few weeks


1. The Patriots’ running backs room is arguably the deepest in football with four solid backs on the roster now, and then Damien Harris on injured reserve, but eligible to come back beginning in Week 4. In Week 1, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor were all active, and all four contributed in the game. When Harris comes back, one of them will be inactive as it’s highly unlikely the team will have five active running backs. One would imagine it will be Taylor, but he showed great promise over the summer and in Week 1. He was compared to Darren Sproles by running backs coach Ivan Fears this week. The Patriots could just keep Harris out, but he looked good this summer before suffering a finger injury that has him on IR. It’s a tough call. And then with the players who are active, how do the carries get split? Against Miami, Michel led the way with 10, Burkhead seven, White five and Taylor four. Taylor and Burkhead made the most of their carries, but does that mean Josh McDaniels and Co. will give them more this week? Does it make sense to split the carries like that, or just pick one or two and ride them? There are a lot of decisions coming up at this position and they all certainly are not easy.

2. It’s hard not to notice the difference with how N’Keal Harry is being treated by Cam Newton compared to Tom Brady last season. "He just really makes it a point of emphasis just to help me out and just try to walk me through things and guide me through things,” Harry said Friday of Newton. “It's been a big help up to this point." Did Harry say anything along those lines about Brady last season? This is just another example of how Newton seems to be more part of the team and “just one of the guys,” unlike Brady from the last few seasons.

3. Damiere Byrd is an interesting player to watch over the next few weeks for the Patriots. The wide receiver played the most snaps — 56 — of any other Patriots wide out in Week 1, but yet didn’t get a single target. Rewatching the game, that could potentially change beginning Sunday against Seattle, as it appeared Byrd was open down the field on several plays. The 27-year-old played with Newton in Carolina, so they are familiar with one another. Don’t be surprised if this connection gets going over the next few games.

4. If Odell Beckham Jr. becomes available via trade, the Patriots could make a lot of sense given their need at the position. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote about it this week. “I think the Patriots make the most sense for him,” Florio wrote . “A lot of teams would not be able to absorb Odell Beckham Jr. and get him to comply with the way they do things, because there’s that constant expectation you’re going to get him the ball, and I’m a firm believer in the quarterback throwing to the guy who’s open. … But he’s craved this idea of going to New England. Now, once he gets there, if he gets there, he may feel differently about the Patriot Way and what it does to you, to break you down, to get you to comply, to get you to submit, to get you to quit thinking about your own individual accomplishments. But I feel like that’s what he needs.”

5. Part of what makes Russell Wilson so good is his scrambling ability to not only take off with the ball, but also to buy himself more time in the pocket. In order to prepare for him, the Patriots had speedy cornerback Myles Bryant play him at some points in practice this week. “You have a guy like Myles (Bryant), who’s very slippery, very athletic and so he’s trying to imitate Russell Wilson right there with them,” Patriots linebacker Brandon Copeland said Friday. “I won’t sit here and say that Myles can throw like Russ. I won’t disrespect Russ like that, and I won’t give Myles that type of credit because I’m sure he’ll try to switch his position. But, you know, he definitely gave us a great look today, and you do what you have to do to get your guys prepared.”

6. It was hard not to notice the praise towards Kyle Dugger over the last week from other players in the secondary. While he played only 11 defensive snaps against Miami, that likely will go up in the coming weeks as he gets even more comfortable with the defense. While some questioned the selection at the time (second round), Dugger has already impressed his teammates, led by his athleticism.

7. While the Patriots will be traveling back across the country following a Sunday night game in Seattle, their opponent next week, the Raiders, will be hosting the Saints on Monday Night Football and then have to travel across almost the entire country next Saturday. While it isn’t a huge advantage, it’s something of note.