Sony Michel

East Rumors: Cowboys, Patriots, Michel, Jets

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee aggravated his hamstring injury in Monday night’s game against the Titans and will be sidelined for “a little bit,” head coach Jason Garrett told reporters, including Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Lee, of course, has had problems staying healthy throughout his lengthy career, as he’s never played a full 16-game slate and just recently missed Weeks 4-6. While Dallas’ defense has historically posted vastly inferior production without Lee on the field, those splits have become less stark thanks to the excellent play of fellow Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Lee isn’t the only member of the Cowboys expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks, as left guard Connor Williams is likely to require knee surgery that will knock him out of action for a few games, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. Williams’ injury isn’t season-ending, but he’s going to have to sit out for several weeks as he recovers. The 50th overall selection in the 2018 draft, Williams has been a middling option at guard this season, ranking 42nd among 75 positional qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Per George, it’s unclear how the Cowboys will replace Williams, but La’el Collins — a former guard — won’t be moved off right tackle.
  • In the AFC, we have news on two injured Patriots running backs, including rookie Sony Michel. Michel suffered a knee injury against the Bears in Week 7 and hasn’t played since, but he’s on track to return against the Titans on Sunday, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. New England hasn’t had any trouble in its backfield even without Michel thanks to the efforts of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson, but Michel — who managed at least 18 carries and touchdown in Weeks 4-6 — will give the Patriots a more balanced attack.
  • Fellow Patriots running back Jeremy Hill announced on Twitter that he underwent surgery for his torn ACL on Monday. Hill suffered his knee injury in Week 1, but players will often wait on surgery for a variety of reasons. Hill, who is in his first season with New England, may have waited for swelling to subside, or, as Kevin Duffy of the Boston Herald tweets, Hill could have hoped to restore range of motion prior to an operation. After inking a one-year, $1.5MM deal this offseason, Hill will hit free agency next spring entering his age-27 campaign.
  • Is offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates the right play-caller to lead Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold‘s development? That’s the question Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News attempts to answer in his most recent column, noting that Darnold has displayed signs of progress despite his high interception totals.

AFC Notes: Bell, Jags, Bosa, Michel

The Steelers are still hopeful that they can trade Le’Veon Bell and net a third-round pick or better in return before Tuesday’s deadline, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Bell, as we heard earlier this week, does not want to be traded, and given that he would need to sign his franchise tender before he can be dealt, he holds all the cards in that regard. La Canfora tweets that Bell (predictably) balked at returning to the Steelers on the exempt list, so there are still plenty of moving pieces to keep an eye on before this situation is finally resolved.

Now let’s take a quick swing around the AFC:

  • Blake Bortles played decently for the Jaguars during their loss in London today, but we heard earlier this week that the fifth-year pro is on a short leash after he was benched during last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. However, Albert Breer of TheMMQB observes that Bortles still took the lion’s share of first-team reps in practice this week (though Cody Kessler did get a few, as anticipated), so it does not appear that there is a quarterback competition at the moment.
  • La Canfora writes that the Jaguars were very much interested in Kirk Cousins last offseason and were prepared to offer him a significant free agent contract and move on from Bortles. However, they were not willing to meet the $30MM-per-year figure that Cousins ultimately got from the Vikings (they hoped to land him for something in the $20-24MM range). Instead, of course, they gave Bortles a pay-as-you-go, team-friendly extension, which allows the club the flexibility to move on this offseason if it so chooses.
  • Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is expected to return to the field for Jacksonville’s Week 10 matchup on November 11 against the Colts, per Schefter.
  • It does not appear as if the Chargers will get Joey Bosa back for their November 4 matchup against the Seahawks, as they had been hoping for some time. Although Bosa is making progress, Schefter writes that he is not “anywhere near ready to play right now.” It is unclear when Bosa will make his much-anticipated return to the field, but the wait will carry until at least the second week of November.
  • Sony Michel returned to practice for the Patriots yesterday, per Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. While Michel will not play in the team’s Monday night contest against the Bills tomorrow, he may be ready to go against the Packers next week. Reiss adds that New England could promote Kenneth Farrow from the taxi squad for tomorrow’s game in order to give themselves three healthy backs.
  • The relationship between Browns HC Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley is not improving, and one of the two could be relieved of his duties in short order.

Injury Updates: Ansah, Lions, Sherman, 49ers, Michel, Patriots, Barr, Vikings

Ezekiel Ansah has missed almost the entire season with a mysterious shoulder injury. He played in the Lions’ opener against the Jets, and notched four tackles and a sack, but hasn’t played since. Detroit has been mum on what exactly is ailing Ansah, and he’s appeared close to returning a few times recently but has never suited up. He’s practice on a limited basis the past couple of weeks, but still hasn’t been ready.

This week might be different, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Ansah “did more in practice Friday than I’ve seen him in recent weeks.” It seems like Ansah is ramping up his activity and has a very good chance to return tomorrow against the Seahawks. Ansah, who’s playing on a franchise tag, would provide a big boost to a suddenly resurgent Lions defense.

Here’s more on some big injuries from around the league:

  • Richard Sherman appears on track to return for the 49ers tomorrow against the Cardinals after a two game absence, but might have to miss Week 9 because of it. Sherman told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s going to attempt to play through the injury, but might be too sore to play on short-rest in Week 9. The 49ers play on Thursday Night Football, and it doesn’t sound like Sherman thinks he’ll be able to play two games in four days.
  • The Patriots have been typically tight-lipped about Sony Michel‘s injury, but the recent word is that it isn’t too serious. That being said, Michel has been downgraded to doubtful for the team’s Monday night game against the Bills, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). If it’s true that it’s relatively minor, Michel should be able to return in Week 9.
  • The Vikings’ defense has already been pretty banged up, and they got even more bad news recently. Linebacker Anthony Barr has been ruled out, which will end his streak of 44 consecutive games started for the Vikings, according to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Vikings will be considerably short-handed for their game against the Saints, and Barr’s absence will surely be felt over the middle.

Latest On Patriots RB Sony Michel

Patriots running back Sony Michel went down with a knee injury on Sunday, and while he will likely miss time, the issue is not expected to be “overly serious,” a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). New England believes Michel is dealing with “at least” an MCL injury, which would cause a multi-week absence but not end the rookie’s 2018 campaign, tweets Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston.

Michel, who was selected 31st overall earlier this year, had knee concerns heading into the draft and has a torn ACL on his record. Additionally, Michel suffered a knee injury in August that forced him to miss the preseason and the Patriots’ first regular season game. Given that track record, New England is surely worried about Michel’s current injury, but it doesn’t sound as though the Georgia product is in danger of missing the rest of the year.

Since returning to action in Week 2, Michel has quickly taken over as the Patriots’ lead back, and he’s led the team in carries each week since. All told, Michel has managed 4.4 yards per carry on 95 rushes while scoring four touchdowns. He’s given New England the ability to sustain a running game, and ranks fifth in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ success rate, meaning he’s excellent at keeping the Patriots’ offense on schedule with regard to down and distance.

The Patriots have already placed fellow backs Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill on injured reserve, leaving James White and Kenjon Barner as the only healthy runners on New England’s roster. Practice-squader Kenneth Farrow is a candidate to be promoted, but the Patriots could also look at the free agent market. They’ve reportedly expressed interest in reuniting with Mike Gillislee, and they’ve worked out a number of backs — including Orleans Darkwa and Charcandrick West — throughout the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Etling, Gilmore, Michel

Danny Etling didn’t make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but that doesn’t mean the team is giving up on him. The rookie quarterback, who New England took in the seventh round of this year’s draft, was signed to the practice squad after cutdown day and has been staying very involved. Etling has been on the sidelines during games this year even though it’s “unusual for practice-squad players” to be on the sidelines, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Reiss thinks “the club taking a similar approach with him as it did with Jacoby Brissett in 2016 when Brissett was on injured reserve”, and that “the hope is that it helps his growth as a player by allowing him to be part of the game-management process.” It sounds like the Patriots still believe that Etling could develop into something worth keeping some day, and he’ll almost surely be signed to a reserve/futures contract this Winter.

Here’s more from Foxborough:

  • Stephon Gilmore signed a massive deal with the Pats two offseasons ago, but he was almost a Chicago Bear. Speaking ahead of the team’s game with the Bears earlier this week, Gilmore revealed he had narrowed it down the the Bears and the Patriots before ultimately choosing New England, Reiss reports.
  • The Patriots are being “characteristically tight lipped” regarding Sony Michel‘s injury, but the rookie sensation running back will undergo an MRI tomorrow, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk (Twitter link). Michel’s injury looked scary at first, and it’s possible he’s dealing with something significant that could cause him to miss a lot of time. If that’s the case expect the Patriots, who are already incredibly thin in the backfield, look for more outside veteran help.
  • In case you missed it, the Patriots expect tight end Rob Gronkowski to return next week against the Bills on Monday Night Football. Gronkowski missed the game against the Bears after his back flared up in practice.

Injury Notes: Fournette, Ansah, Michel, Burkhead, Barron

Inactive lists for the late slate of games are starting to roll in, and are providing answers to some key injury questions. Perhaps the biggest mystery of the week was the status of Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. We finally have clarity, as Fournette will officially miss Jacksonville’s Week 2 game against the Patriots with his hamstring injury according to Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link).

It’s a big blow for the Jaguars who like to establish the running game and make things easy for Blake Bortles. They did get some good news however as Calais Campbell, who was a very late add to the injury report, will play. Here are more injury notes from around the league:

  • The Lions’ already weak defense will be without their best player, as Ezekiel Ansah will be sidelined with a shoulder injury per Michael Rothstein of ESPN (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport had previously tweeted Ansah was expected to play, so this is a bit of a surprise.
  • The Patriots’ backfield got some good news as both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will suit up per Ben Volin of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Burkhead was cleared from the concussion protocol while Michel will make his NFL debut after missing most of the offseason with a knee injury.
  • The Rams will be without starting linebacker Mark Barron for a second straight week per ProFootballTalk (Twitter link). It’s bad news for Los Angeles as their linebackers were shredded over the middle last week by tight end Jared Cook for 180 yards.

AFC Notes: Jets, Johnson, Patriots, Michel, Cannon Raiders, Hankins

When Jets owner Woody Johnson accepted the role as ambassador to the U.K., he left the team under the leadership of his brother Christopher. Given the relative success and cultural improvements the organization has seen under Christopher’s watch, there’s been a lot of speculation about what will happen when Woody returns from his political appointment.

Christopher himself is being quite open about the fact that he wants to stay on with the Jets, saying “no question, I’m hoping to have a larger role” even after his brother returns according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). He added that he thinks Woody will be receptive to it, saying “I think he’d welcome that. I know that he would. I think that I have a new perspective at this point that would be valuable for the franchise.” Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting to watch it unfold as Christopher is reportedly well liked by the players.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • It looks like Sony Michel could be making his NFL debut this week. The first round pick of the Patriots missed most of the offseason and Week 1 due to a knee ailment, but has “made a lot of progress this week” and “the progress has been encouraging” for his Week 1 prospects according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Speaking of Patriots injuries, starting left tackle Marcus Cannon is looking unlikely to play and the team has “prepared LaAdrian Waddle this week to start” according to Howe (Twitter link). It’d be a big blow to the Patriots’ offensive line against Jacksonville’s dominant defensive front.
  • The details are in for the Raiders’ two recent defensive tackle signings. Johnathan Hankins will get $2MM for the season and Clinton McDonald will get $1.75MM according to Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). Pelissero notes that almost every other recent veteran signing has been for the veterans minimum.

Sony Michel May Miss Regular-Season Time

The Patriots saw the second of their first-round picks suffer a knee injury this week. Although it’s not viewed as a severe malady, Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets Sony Michel could be out until early in the regular season.

Michel left Wednesday’s practice, and the exit left the team “concerned,” per Howe (on Twitter). This setback requires a corrective procedure, per Howe, and one that is expected to at the very least shelve the Georgia-developed running back for the preseason. Howe adds Michel’s recovery time might extend into the regular season.

This procedure already took place, with Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reporting (Twitter link) more optimistic news as a result. Michel will be out at least 10 days, which will almost certainly sideline him for at least two Pats preseason games but possibly having him ready to return later this month.

New England allowed Dion Lewis to defect to Tennessee this offseason but added Michel at No. 31. Michel can be expected to play a big role for the two-time defending AFC champions this season, but his acclimation process took a hit this week. The Pats still have James White and Rex Burkhead, and the Mike GillisleeJeremy Hill roster battle becomes more interesting as well. The former Bengals back likely has the edge here, per NESN’s Doug Kyed (on Twitter).

Knee issues affected Michel during the lead-up to the draft, with The Ringer’s Michael Lombardi indicating some concern among teams existed because of a bone-on-bone condition in Michel’s left knee. Michel also has a torn ACL in his past, though that injury occurred back in high school.

The Patriots were obviously satisfied with Michel’s medical reports to take him in Round 1, the first time New England’s used a first-rounder on a running back since Laurence Maroney in 2006.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Sign Rookie RB Sony Michel

The Patriots have signed rookie running back Sony Michel, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com was the first to report that the two sides had agreed to terms (Twitter link). New England selected Michel with the No. 31 overall pick in this year’s draft, and the club now has its entire 2018 draft class under contract.

Michel may have been outcarried by Nick Chubb during his last two seasons on campus, but he still got plenty of touches and was pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands. In 2017, Michel rushed for 1,227 yards on a whopping 7.9 yards per carry (to go along with 16 TDs), and he was taken four picks higher than Chubb in the draft. Although it is notoriously difficult to project how New England will distribute touches among its running backs, Michel is likely to get more carries than anyone else on the roster. Indeed, as Rapoport tweets, the Patriots rarely select an RB in the first round, and they clearly have big plans for Michel.

Michel will lead a group that also includes Rex Burkhead and James White, though the running back room could soon be without Mike Gillislee. Gillislee will battle with Jeremy Hill and Brandon Bolden for a spot at the bottom of the Patriots’ RB depth chart.

As the No. 31 pick, Michel’s contract is a four-year pact that is worth just shy of $10MM and that carries a team option for a fifth season. He joins former Georgia teammate Isaiah Wynn as one of the Patriots’ two 2018 first-round selections, and he could be running behind Wynn as early as Week 1.

There are now nine unsigned first-round picks remaining from this year’s class.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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