New England Patriots

By John ‘The Dude’ Hardiman, 985TheSportsHub.com

During the 2018 NFL Draft the New England Patriots made it a point to draft offensive players who protect the football, like quarterback Danny Etling and receiver Braxton Berrios.

But what about running back Sony Michel?

The former Georgia Bulldog running back, who was selected 31st overall, has a real shot at becoming the Patriots’ starting running back in 2018.

Especially if he demonstrates that he can maintain a professional level of ball security as an NFL back.

Michel, 23, played all four years at the University of Georgia, while rushing for 3,613 yards and 33 touchdowns on 590 rushing attempts. And during his senior campaign, he rushed for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns on 156 attempts.

During his time as a Bulldog he fumbled 12 times in 658 college touches, or once every 54.8 touches.

But his fumble rate did decrease during his senior season to once every 82.5 touches.

PASADENA – Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Caleb Kelly (19) forces a fumble by Georgia Bulldogs running back Sony Michel (1) during the fourth quarter of the 2018 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl Stadium on Jan 1, 2018. Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

According to United Press International, Michel ranked amongst the worst in “fumble rates” for running backs in the 2018 draft class.

The only player who had a worse fumble rate was North Texas University running back, Jeffery Wilson (39.5), who signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent after going undrafted in the late-April draft.

RELATED: Patriots ‘Comfortable’ With Sony Michel’s Injury History

Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears was asked last week how to clearly express the importance of ball security to the rookie running back.

His response: “Let him sit on the bench a little while.”

“He’s got to figure out that’s the most important thing he does. He’s got to figure that out, and he’s got to get that message. And I don’t care how you do it, he’s got to get that message. And when he gets that message, he’s going to play. He’s going to hold onto that ball. If he can’t hold onto that ball, then he can’t play for us. We can’t have that.”

We certainly can’t have that here in New England.

The football needs to be in Tom Brady’s hands as much as possible and that can’t happen if guys are fumbling around.

Ball security is one of the Patriots’ main pillars of success throughout the years. Just look at how Brady and company protect the football.

If Michel’s ball security becomes an issue, “The Program 2” could be coming to Showcase Cinema de Lux Patriot Place sometime in the near future.

ATLANTA – Georgia Bulldogs running back Sony Michel (1) breaks a tackle by Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Victor Alexander (9) on his way to a touchdown during the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Nov 25, 2017. Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fears went onto talk about Michel’s size, saying that, “he’s a very physical guy for a guy who’s really good in the open field.”

“Most of those guys are “scat-back” guys. He’s very productive in the open field. And he’s also very productive inside, because he’s got some stout to him,” said Fears.

“He’s not a little guy. He’s broad shouldered and what, about 215 (pounds), somewhere in that neighborhood? He’s a size player that can pound it away and also make some things happen in the open space. It doesn’t surprise me that he made some plays for (Georgia) — a lot of plays for them.”

WATCH: Sony Michel’s Rose Bowl Highlights Are Ridiculous

“Fortunately for us, he was very successful in that area,” Fears said. “He did a great job for them. He’s a physical guy, and he’s a tough guy. So, we just got to teach him who to block. When we get him on the right guy, I think he’ll do a good job blocking. I really do. I expect he’ll do a good job blocking.”

From the sound of it, Michel is beefy back, who can make plays in open space and down field. And he has the ability to be the kind of running back the Patriots endear when it comes to blocking, because the Pats love to use their backs in designed blocking schemes or in audible/adjustment situations.

We see the Patriots use their backs in chip block and blitz-pick-up situations, so a back who can understand the nuances of blocking here in New England, he’ll have a shot to earn substantial playing time.

Especially if he can take care of the football and make winning plays down field.

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John Hardiman is a Digital Producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for John? Hit him up on Twitter @HardiDude or e-mail him at jhardiman@985thesportshub.com.