Sony Michel is averaging 26.5 carries over his last two games, and had 8 17+ carry games this year if you count the playoffs. He’s playing the early down grinder role in his rookie year without being involved in the pass game – intentionally. It’s not that he doesn’t have the skillset, but because he wasn’t ready to have that responsibility on him in his first while they have a pass-catching specialist in James White. RB coach Ivan Fears said that he’s “he’s a rookie.. a little behind the eight-ball” when it comes to being a pass-catcher. He said “we’ve got a little ways to go… right now, we just want to get a role that he can handle for us.” And he’s handled it.
One of the reasons the Patriots drafted Michel was because of his versatility, and there’s no doubt that they want to remain unpredictable on a per play basis when Michel is in the backfield. When Michel is on the field, they’ve run the ball on about 70% of those snaps; that gives the defense a bit of an advantage. If Michel can improve in the pass game this offseason, and comes into next season with more responsibility in that aspect of the game, we can be looking at 20-25 touches per game for him, which can include 3-5 catches. That would raise his floor tremendously, and he wouldn’t be as TD dependent.
James White will continue his role as the pass-catching specialist on this offense, and Rex Burkhead can see work when Michel’s getting too many touches, but Michel should start to run more routes on early downs and let the Patriots be more versatile on offense without giving up what they’re going to do. His pass-blocking was one of the best in his class, so that shouldn’t be an issue. He’s the clear goal line back, and we’ve seen the ceiling that he can have if given those opportunities as well. Keep an eye out on that added role in training camp and preseason.