Patriots Mailbag: Did Damien Harris Show Enough To Take Sony Michel’s Role?

Will Sony Michel get his job back after returning off of the injured reserve list?

by Doug Kyed

October 9, 2020

The NFL seemingly lulled itself into complacency after nearly two months of successfully blocking out COVID-19.

And if this is even close to being true:

Then teams are going to clamp down immediately.

It wouldn’t be shocking if the NFL goes into 32 separate bubbles eventually, but it’s also understandable why the league is delaying the process. The cases are still isolated at this point. Give it a couple more weeks before making a drastic decision. The less time NFL players are forced to stay in bubbles, the more likely it will be to succeed.

But with the way things are going in the NFL and in the country, a bubble might eventually be inevitable.

Watch above and read below for this week’s mailbag.

Do you see Belichick giving the reigns to Harris, even when Sony returns? We’ve seen the Pats use a bellcow in the past, but this backfield seems to be a constant rotation depending on the game.

It’s so hard to predict. I’m not sure if the Patriots will actually fully commit to a player in that early-down role this whole season.

Damien Harris will assume that role for the next two games, whenever they’re actually played. Then Sony Michel is eligible to return from the injured reserve list and one of those two players will be left without an obvious role.

James White handles third-down duties, Rex Burkhead is the do-everything backup, and it seems like J.J. Taylor’s role will change by the game. So, that leaves the early-down role open between Harris and Michel.

I thought Harris played well on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs as he picked up 100 yards and found a big hole for a 41-yard gain. But was it a good enough performance to fend off Michel forever? Harris will need to continue to run hard and smart over the next two games to keep the job. Nothing is set in stone at this point.

Does Cam need to test negative in order to play after the BYE?

I actually don’t think Cam Newton has to test negative to return to the field, which seems crazy.

Here are the rules for asymptomatic players:

1. Ten days have passed since the initial positive test OR
2. Two consecutive negative PCR virus tests separated by 24 hours AND
3. Return approved by the team physician after consultation with medical experts at Infection Control Education for Major Sports (ICS) and notification of NFL Chief Medical Officer

And for symptomatic players:

1. At least 10 days have passed since the date symptoms of COVID-19 were first reported to team medical staff AND
2. At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications AND
3. Other symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) have improved AND
4. Return approved by the team physician after consultation with ICS and notification of NFL Chief Medical Officer AND
5. Local regulations and requirements are satisfied

So, if I’m reading those correctly, then it seems like a player does not need to test negative to return as long as it’s been 10 days since a positive test or symptoms.

That seems … odd. Because if a player tests positive, then that means they still could have the viral load to be contagious.

Now that the Patriots are playing the Denver Broncos on Monday night, 10 days would have elapsed between Newton’s positive test and New England’s next game. Hmm.

Stidham or Hoyer?

To start Monday if Newton remains on the COVID/reserve list? I’d probably go with Jarrett Stidham.

After thrusting him into action late in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, I’d like to see what he could do with a full week of preparation. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case this week, since the Patriots already have canceled practice Wednesday and Thursday after Stephon Gilmore registered a positive COVID test and can only practice Friday if all players test negative Thursday.

Then again, I don’t think the Patriots can turn back to Brian Hoyer after what happened with the two third-down sacks Monday night.

So, does the team put Stidham in another difficult situation or put Hoyer back there after a disastrous start Monday night?

I’d still go Stidham, even if it ultimately might be unfair to the second-year QB.

Trade deadline is a few weeks away, but what is one position you could see Bill trading for? (And who might be some targets?) I?d like to get more athletic at ILB. What do you think? #MailDoug

I think you have to start with looking at wide receiver and tight end. Wide receiver Damiere Byrd and tight end Ryan Izzo currently lead their respective positions in offensive snaps. It seems impossible that those are the Patriots’ top two options at those two positions.

Julian Edelman seems relegated to third receiver duties this season. N’Keal Harry has shown some potential but still hasn’t been a dependable option in the offense. And then it seems unlikely that Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, Isaiah Zuber, Devin Ross or Kristian Wilkerson will be a major upgrade over Byrd. And the Patriots don’t need a better No. 3. They need a legit No. 1 wide receiver so Byrd, Harry, Edelman and the rest of the wide receiver corps can play complementary roles.

And if rookie tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene aren’t going to contribute as pass-catchers in Year 1, then the Patriots pretty desperately need to improve the position. Izzo is an OK blocking tight end/backup option. But he can’t be your top player at the position.

Doug, am I crazy for being all aboard the Shilique Calhoun train?

He’s definitely making more plays this season, even if some of them haven’t counted on the box score.

He’s 31st out of 117 qualified edge defenders in PFF’s pass-rush productivity metric with two sacks and three hurries on just 50 opportunities. So, that’s pretty good. Derek Rivers ranks second (two sacks, two QB hits, hurry on 33 opportunities) and Chase Winovich ranks fifth (three sacks, four QB hits, eight hurries on 91 opportunities). Deatrich Wise ranks 15th (sack, three QB hits, four hurries on 67 opportunities) out of 114 qualified interior defenders in pass-rush productivity.

The Patriots’ pass-rush has actually been pretty good through four weeks.

I know we have talked John Ross, but is there a world (financially and logistically) where AJ Green is a trade target as his routes and targets slim in Cinn?

The Cincinnati Bengals made the extremely inadvisable decision to franchise A.J. Green, which means the 32-year-old receiver is making $18 million this season. That means he’s making over $1 million per game.

Green looks worn down through four games this season, registering just 14 catches on 33 targets for 119 yards with no touchdowns. If the Patriots acquired him tomorrow, they’d have to pay him over $13 million over the course of the rest of the season. There’s simply no way he’s worth that much money. It’s one of the worst salaries in the NFL right now.

Let’s go rapid fire.

What’s the deal with Keene? Is he still hurt? I was hoping to see some 3 TE sets this year and maybe a catch or two up the seam.

It’s a bad sign that someone like Taylor didn’t even play Monday night but was active over Keene. It seems some injuries set him back, and he has yet to catch up.

Combined targets for Keane + Asiasi in the regular seasons: Over/under 9.5

The Patriots have to hope it’s the over.

Percentage chance the NFL season is completed?

I don’t know if I can give a percentage, but I know they’re going to do everything in their power to play a Super Bowl. I actually don’t think it’s time to hit pause on the season. The positive cases, so far, are still fairly isolated.

why is the NFL so stupid

Stubborn or greedy might be better words to describe the league in the wake of how they handled the Patriots in Week 4.

If you were elected president, which cabinet position would you give to Joe Thuney?

As a guard/center, I’d give Joe Thuney the Secretary of the Interior position.

Chance AB gets signed if these receivers continue to be mediocre

AB, as in Antonio Brown? None.

When will they change the uniform design again? Who do we petition to go back to the previous one? (only half joking)

The Patriots must keep their current uniforms in tact for at least five years.

Why is Hoyer still on that (expletive) roster?



Just hoping the Patriots can safely play a game of football this Monday.

Chipotle or Moe?s?

I actually prefer Qdoba. I’ll take Chipotle over Moe’s, though.

How many laptops you got

Meghan, you’re not going to like this answer.

I have five laptops. Three of them are usable. The other two are sitting in my home office collecting dust.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots
A general view of Gillette Stadium
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