Who’s to Blame for Sony Michel’s Early Struggles

Who’s to Blame for Sony Michel’s Early Struggles

by September 24, 2019 0 comments

Throughout the postseason, the New England Patriots adopted an offensive playstyle that we’ve grown to be unfamiliar with: Ground and pound.

The featured tailback throughout these games was first-round selection Sony Michel. who averaged 4.7 yards-per-carry and 112 yards-per-game en route to the Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl win since 2000.

This seemed like a sign of things to come. As Tom Brady continued to get older, the Patriots would feature more and more Sony Michel. A move that was growing increasingly popular as the Patriots second-year running back entered training camp looking noticeably thinner, as well as more elusive in the open field.

However, through the first three games of the season, Michel has struggled. The 24-year-old Georgia product is averaging just 2.4 yards-per-carry, and only 1.8 yards before he feels contact from the opposition.

But is that his fault?

Yes and no. What Michel benefitted from mightily last season was the push guys like David Andrews (IR), Trent Brown (now in Oakland), Rob Gronkowski (retired), and Dwayne Allen (injured/not on Patriots) were able to create for him. The holes opened up and allowed the running back to breakthrough for nice chunk-plays of eight yards, 12 yards, even sometimes 15 yards before Michel would feel any sort of defensive pressure.

This year, that is just not the case. Jakob Johnson, Marshall Newhouse, Ryan Izzo, and Matt LaCosse is, for lack of a better word, an inferior run-blocking package to the one mentioned before. Thus causing Michel to run into a wall before he is able to kick it into second gear.

But there’s more to it than just the decline in offensive line play, as Michel still garners some of the criticism for his struggles through 45 carries this season.

You might ask: How is it his fault? Most running backs would struggle if they felt contact at or near the line of scrimmage each carry, so why treat Michel any differently? To that, the easiest response is: Rex Burkhead has the same blocking in front of him, yet he’s amounted four more yards (112) in 21 fewer attempts (24) while breaking more tackles (one opposed to zero).

Burkhead has an average of 3.9 yards before contact per-rush, whereas Michel sits at 1.8. So what gives?

Well, Burkhead isn’t one-dimensional like Michel is. On top of the ex-Bengal’s 24 carries for 112 yards, he’s added 13 receptions (17 targets) for another 110 yards. Michel hasn’t even had 17 targets for his entire career through 16 career games (12 targets). Opposing defenses can pretty much assume the Patriots are running the football whenever they see no. 26 trot into the offensive huddle, thus creating an extra obstacle for the young tailback to overcome.

If the Patriots want to get a significant increase in production from Michel, the best bet is to get him involved in the passing game. Throw a wrinkle into the offensive gameplan, thus creating something else opposing defenses need to focus on.

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