Sony Michel ran for 931 yards in his first NFL regular season with the Patriots and then had six rushing touchdowns in three postseason games to help the team to a Super Bowl title, so it’s hard to find much reason to complain about his rookie performance.
If one did want to find an obvious area of improvement, it would be Michel’s work in the passing game. Michel only caught seven passes last season and the Patriots skewed heavily toward the ground game when he was in the backfield, so defenses could predict what was coming even if they weren’t able to stop it often enough.
Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears doesn’t think they’ll have that luxury this year. Fears said Michel is “much improved” in the passing game and that the offense will reflect that once the regular season is underway.
“The whole key to make it so we’re interchangeable, everybody looks at us saying they can do both. We like to be in that kind of mode, they got to worry about Sony catching the ball as well as running the ball,” Fears said, via Mac Cerullo of the Newburyport Daily News. “I think you’ll find Sony is going to do very well in the passing game, and I bet you’ll find James White and the rest of the guys doing very well in the running game also. We’re going to try to keep that going.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said that the Patriots’ offensive identity is still taking shape. If Fears is right about Michel’s strides in the passing game, he’ll be at the forefront of whatever identity winds up ruling the day in New England.