By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Sony Michel proved something on Sunday, and he didn’t necessarily have to prove it at all. He showed that he’s clearly an NFL-caliber running back. In actuality, it was even a little better than that.
Where the rookie goes from here is up to him. But after two uninspiring performances in his first two games as a pro, Michel certainly flipped that script in the New England Patriots’ 38-7 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Michel gained 112 yards on 25 carries, including his first career touchdown. He showed plenty of power, burst, and elusiveness on a number of runs.
Amazing to think that a first-round pick can make plays with the ball in his hands when everyone else is doing their jobs.
Michel got far better blocking up front than he got against the Detroit Lions last Sunday night, and it showed when the rookie was able to get to the second level of the Dolphins defense. Whenever he powered by the first level, he started to resemble the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has a strong lower body and is tough to bring down anyway, but he makes it even harder when he uses his field vision and footwork to slip would-be tacklers out of position.
“It’s All On Me”
The rookie showed off his best traits when he ripped off a 23-yard run in the second quarter. He decisively burst through a seam created by right guard Shaq Mason, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and fullback James Develin. He then broke through the second level when he blew by middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and shook off cornerback Bobby McCain with relative ease. To finish the run, Michel lowered his shoulder into rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and rumbled for an extra five yards.
Michel chalked his own performance up to better execution. It was needed up and down the Patriots lineup after the debacle in Detroit, but he needed it himself as well.
“It’s all about how you execute in the play,” said Michel. “[I] did a little bit better job this week than I did last week.”
Michel’s physical tools profile as a legitimate early-down power back for the Patriots. But arguably his best attribute as a runner is his decisiveness, his ability to quickly read blocks and make the right play at the point of attack. He didn’t show enough of that against Jacksonville or Detroit. He showed plenty of that against Miami.
“It’s all on me on making the right read just being decisive and patient,” said Michel. “It’s all on me to do a great job with both of those things.”
There was no 78-yard touchdown run for Michel. His yardage didn’t cross the 200 mark. So there will probably be some cynics who downplay the idea that this was Michel’s “breakout game” or “coming out party” or whatever cliche you’d want to apply.
Perhaps Sunday falls short of those platitudes. But Michel undisputedly played better than he did against Detroit, and so did the guys in front of him. And his trajectory should continue upward from here.
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.