FOXBORO, Mass. — It wasn’t always easy, but Sony Michel’s rookie season with the New England Patriots has been a successful first year for the Georgia product.

After missing the preseason and Week 1 with an injury, Michel got his feet wet in Week 2 and finished the regular season rushing for 931 yards with six touchdowns while leading New England with 209 carries. The young running back gave the Patriots a consistent rushing presence and, when he’s been healthy, he’s been a productive force out of the backfield.

As New England prepares to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, fellow running back James White praised the growth his teammate has shown throughout his first NFL season.

“It’s kind of all aspects,” White said Wednesday “You know, coming in here from Day 1, you know, you’re kind of clueless, and him, you know, doesn’t really talk too much, kind of reminds me of myself, just putting his head down and working, taking the coaching. Rookie year can be tough, it can be long and he’s just put in the work each and every day, keeps getting better and better each week. Having him on our team has been a big boost for us this year, getting the running game going — the offensive line, receivers, tight ends. It’s been a big boost to have him.”

Expect the Patriots to go Michel early and often Sunday against the Bolts. The Chargers are thin at linebacker and have presented six- and seven-defensive back looks at times, a formation New England and Michel should be able to gash if it can find a way to stop defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa from disrupting plays in the backfield.

Michel only is a rookie, but the Patriots will need him to play a huge role Sunday and, hopefully, the weeks to come.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images