New England Patriots fans were shocked and a little frustrated when Bill Belichick selected a running back in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft when the team had other perceived needs to fill. They might be feeling better about the pick after Saturday night.
Damien Harris ran for 80 yards on 14 carries in his NFL preseason debut, also adding four catches for 23 yards in the Patriots’ 22-17 win over the Tennessee Titans. His biggest run of the day was a 20-yarder when he made a quick cut through a massive hole and showed his 4.5 40-yard dash speed as he rushed toward the sideline.
“It was a well-blocked play,” Harris said. “There was a big hole. All I had to do was run through it. I didn’t really have to do much. A lot of credit to those guys. They’re the ones that made it happen.”
Harris exhibited a powerful running style, good vision, patience and balance in his first live contact. He also flashed his versatility, showing off his solid hands out of the backfield and split out wide. He even laid out for a catch near the sideline from quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Harris almost certainly will be used as a depth option behind Sony Michel, James White and maybe even Rex Burkhead. But given the injury histories of Michel and Burkhead, it’s more than likely Harris will need to be counted on at some point in the 2019 season. He’ll likely be the Patriots’ backup bell-cow over Burkhead if Michel goes down at any point. The Patriots are in good shape if the rookie can build off this first performance.