FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel has 312 rushing yards over his last three games. He’s on pace for 1,067 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing the Patriots’ first game of the season and struggling in the next two. Yet Patriots head coach Bill Belichick believes Michel “has a long way to go.”
That’s probably a good thing.
Belichick has actually said Michel, who has 91 carries for 400 yards with four touchdowns along with three catches for 18 yards on the season, “has a long way to go” four times over the last three weeks.
From Sept. 26: “Yeah, he’s working hard. He’s getting better every day – got a long way to go, but he’s working hard and he’s improving.”
From Oct. 10: He’s making progress. He’s got a long way to go. He’s making progress.
From Oct. 15: “Sony gets better every day. He gets better every week. He’s still got a long way to go, but he does a lot of good things out there. We’ll just keep trying to get him more experience and get him more reps and opportunities to see different things.”
He said it again Wednesday while pumping the brakes on Michel some more when asked about the 2018 first-round pick’s power running style.
“He runs hard,” was all Belichick would offer at first.
He expounded slightly more when asked how Michel mixes leverage with strength to pick up yards after initial contact.
“He runs hard,” Belichick repeated. “He’s got good strength. He’s got a long way to go. He runs hard. He’s tough. We’ll see.”
If Michel is already ripping off 100-yard games with regularity, then it’s a wonder what he’ll look like when he no longer as “a long way to go.” Michel certainly has been aided by the Patriots’ offensive line.
Despite Michel’s raw production, he ranks 34th out of 52 qualified running backs with 2.62 average yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. Michel breaks a tackle on just 11.7 percent of offensive touches, which ranks 39th out of 52 qualified running backs.
So, maybe Michel does have a long way to go, but he’s producing while growing. And if he can continue improving as the season goes along, then that just gives the Patriots’ offense more upside.
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