Patriots News: Damien Harris Emerging as New England's No. 1 RB

Devon Platana
New England Patriots RB Damien Harris is emerging as the team's No. 1 running back.
New England Patriots RB Damien Harris is emerging as the team's No. 1 running back. / Harry How/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL season was the New England Patriots' first campaign in forever without Tom Brady. The experience was a forgettable one. The Patriots went 7-9, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Management will surely want better results in 2021 and third-year running back Damien Harris could be a player that helps New England achieve that success.

Harris is currently a part of a three-head backfield with the Patriots that also includes Sony Michel and James White. However, ESPN's Mike Reiss said that he sees Harris as the Patriots' No. 1 RB "and it's pretty decisive."

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Injuries limited Harris to just 10 games played in 2020. By the time the season wrapped up, the former Alabama RB finished with 691 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He was remarkably efficient, averaging 13.7 carries for 69.1 rushing yards per game (5.0 yards per carry), which would've put him on a 16-game pace to rack up 219 rushes for 1,106 yards had he stayed healthy.

At the same time, health isn't the only obstacle in Harris' way if he's looking to have a breakout season. For starters, he does still have to compete with Michel and White for touches. White is primarily a passing-down back, but Michel is a real threat to cut into Harris' early-down work.

The Georgia product looked more explosive than he ever has at the NFL level last year, turning 79 carries into 449 rushing yards, which works out to a career-best 5.7 yards per carry. Michel's previous career high was 4.5.

Even if Harris has been outplaying Michel so far this offseason, it feels like these two are destined for a timeshare. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels tend to prefer to use a platoon of backs at RB rather than rely on one work-horse back.

Still, it'll be interesting to see whether Harris can break that trend when this season rolls around.

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