Per usual, the Patriots running back room is getting a bit crowded. However, while Bill Belichick and co. will traditionally shake up their depth chart based on performance and opponents, ESPN’s Mike Reiss believes the hierarchy is already set heading into training camp. According to the writer, Damien Harris is the “surefire No. 1 option” at the moment
Harris, a 2019 third-round pick, barely played during his rookie campaign, but he took on more responsibility during the 2020 season. The Alabama product ended up finishing the campaign with 743 yards from scrimmage on only 142 carries. Best of all, the 5-foot-11 running back doesn’t appear to be a flash in the pan, as Belichick was quick to praise the 24-year-old last month.
“Damien works extremely hard at all phases — certainly his conditioning and training, running game, passing game, protection, route running, catching the ball,” Belichick said (via Reiss) “He’s got a lot of skill and he can contribute in a variety of ways, and he’s looking to upgrade where he is in every area.”
While Harris seems to have a firm hold on the starting gig, the rest of the depth chart is still a bit uncertain. As Reiss notes, the only other running back who’s (basically) guaranteed to make the roster is fourth-round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. Elsewhere, pass-catching veteran James White will probably retain his role for at least another year, J.J. Taylor is inexpensive and should serve as a “spark plug,” and Brandon Bolden has established himself as a special teams ace. This means that former first-round pick Sony Michel could find himself on the outside looking in, especially if the Patriots decide to hang on to one of their younger, less expensive alternatives.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.