By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Sony Michel can’t face all of the blame for what’s been an inauspicious start to his NFL career. But the Patriots are clearly making a concerted effort to jump-start the rookie running back. And when he’s gotten the ball, Michel hasn’t produced like the team has hoped.
It’s notable to put a spotlight on Michel’s usage in his first two NFL games. He’s played a total of 36 snaps, and he’s touched the ball on 26 of them. Tom Brady has targeted him three other times, and you could argue that Michel dropped three catchable footballs.
To be fair to the rookie, it’s not his fault that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is turning to him on crucial plays so aggressively. McDaniels called for Michel to get the ball on three separate third-and-1 plays, and Michel only converted one of them. He netted -3 yards on the other two carries, which should go down more as questionable play-calling than weak running.
But if McDaniels and the Patriots are going to keep feeding the ball to Michel – who still looks like the team’s best option as an early-down back in the long run – then the rookie will have to start producing more positive plays than he has.
Michel may feel better about his role in the offense if it translated to wins. For a player that doesn’t quite look ready for the kind of workload he’s had, touches were the least of his concern.
“If you aren’t winning games, it’s not fun,” Michel told reporters after the game. “There’s nothing to make me feel good except for winning games. That’s the purpose, that’s the goal and that’s what we’re going to work towards.”
The Patriots started with three straight three-and-outs on Sunday night, which severely skewed time of possession in the Lions’ favor and granted them control of the game in the early-going. Michel acknowledged that it’s not the first time he’s seen his offense struggle like the Patriots did in the first half.
“Yeah, I played a lot of football in my life,” said Michel. That’s part of football. You’re gonna face adversity when you’re playing football. It’s all about how you respond.”
Safe to say that the Patriots offense never really responded to the ugliness that was unfolding on the field. Their biggest flaws on both sides of the ball resurfaced to a disturbing degree in the 26-10 loss. And it doesn’t help that their highest healthy draft pick from the 2018 class hasn’t looked like a first-rounder so far.
There’s plenty of time for Michel to figure things out. But based on his usage two games into his NFL career, the Patriots want that to happen sooner than they normally would expect for a rookie. For a Patriots offense in need of playmaking weapons outside of Rob Gronkowski, Michel is inevitably going to have to give the Patriots more than he has. It’s probably best to get James White more looks, and you certainly can’t heap too much blame on a kid who’s two games into his career.
But it certainly seems like Michel is being counted on heavily to make plays. Fair or not, he’ll need to do more with the ball when he gets it than he has through two games.
It was hard for Michel to maintain his focus and produce with the Lions controlling the flow of the game like they were. But like Michel said before, that kind of adversity simply needs to be overcome.
“Playing the game, it can be frustrating, but you got to focus on the game,” said Michel. “You got a lot of game to play, so you got to just keep pushing.”
Matt Dolloff 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 Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.