Patriots Notes: Sony Michel Addresses Early-Season Rushing Struggles

FOXBORO, Mass. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from Wednesday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:

— Sony Michel isn’t solely to blame for his sluggish start to the season. But his ugly 2.4 yards-per-carry average hasn’t just been the result of poor blocking, either.

Head coach Bill Belichick said the Patriots’ entire rushing offense needs to improve, meaning the offensive line and tight ends must be more consistent in their blocking, Michel must do a better job of creating yards for himself and the coaching staff must find ways to put its players in more favorable positions, especially with fullback James Develin now on injured reserve.

“I think he’s had opportunities, and he’s done pretty well with those,” Belichick said of Michel. “There’s been times where he hasn’t been able to get started, and that’s always a problem with the running game. If you can’t get them through the line of scrimmage, you can gain some yards, but it’s hard.

“There are things he can do better. Certainly, we can block better and coach better so we’ll try to do those and improve in every part of our offense — not just the running game but play-actions and passing game and everything else.”

Michel also acknowledged his own role in these struggles. Though he turned in a respectable performance against the awful Miami Dolphins in Week 2 (21 carries, 83 yards, one touchdown, one lost fumble), he averaged less than 1.5 yards per carry in wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers (15 carries for 14 yards) and New York Jets (nine carries for 11 yards).

“I just take accountability and try to do my job the best I can,” the 2018 first-round pick said. “It’s not always going to be blocked perfect. Sometimes, the running back’s job is to make guys miss, and I have to make guys miss.”

Patriots quarterbacks also have targeted Michel just once in the passing game this season: a short throw from Tom Brady last Sunday that fell incomplete near the goal line. Michel, who showed improvement as a pass-catcher during training camp, was asked whether he expects to see more targets moving forward.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “It depends. If the coach calls my number to run those type of plays and they throw me the ball, then I’ll be ready.”

Running behind the likes of Develin, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen and left tackle Trent Brown, Michel rushed for 931 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games as a rookie last season, then added an additional 336 yards and three scores in three playoff games. With Gronkowski, Allen, Brown and now Develin all gone, the Patriots have been unable to replicate that success thus far, though their prolific passing attack has been able to mask their ground-game deficiencies.

— It took less than a month for rookie Jake Bailey to receive league-wide recognition for his punting prowess.

Bailey earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for Week 3 after pinning the New York Jets inside their own 10-yard line on four of his seven punts last Sunday.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes what he’s seen thus far from Allen, who’s displayed eye-popping leg strength since he arrived in Foxboro as a fifth-round draft pick this past spring.

“Jake’s a very talented player,” Belichick said. “He had a lot to work with when he came in. He’s done well ever since he’s been here. There’s some situational punting that we’ve asked him to do. He’s handled that well. He’s done a good job of holding, done a good job of kicking off when he did that in preseason. We haven’t done that with him here in the regular season, but he showed he could do that so it gives us depth at that position as well. Yeah, he’s done a solid job for us.”

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images