After being activated off of the injured reserve list on Monday afternoon, Damien Harris had a prime opportunity to make up for lost time this season with the New England Patriots placing fellow running back Sony Michel on IR with a quad injury on Monday, leaving the door open for Harris to prove himself early on.
Harris, who was the team’s best running back in training camp, made the most of his first career start in the NFL, rushing the ball 17 times for 100 yards, highlighted by a 41-yard run at the end of the third quarter.
With Harris back healthy, and Michel heading to IR, the second-year man showed he was capable of handling the role of lead back for this team, attacking gaps at the line of scrimmage with a burst that Michel lacks, and running aggressively and decisively throughout the night.
Harris ran so well on Monday night that he may just run away with the Patriots’ early-down running back role for the rest of the season.
“There’s definitely a lot of emotions coming out of that game,” he said after his season debut. “You know, first and foremost, we didn’t win the game and that’s what’s most important. We didn’t play well enough, so that was disappointing. There’s a lot of things to work on and to improve on.”
Facing a Kansas City Chiefs defense that had success against the potent running game of the Baltimore Ravens last week, Harris didn’t look out of place for a player who only carried the ball three times last season.
“It was exciting getting back out there with the guys. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m looking forward to playing with this group of guys on this team for a long time now,” Harris remarked. “So, just being able to be out there with those guys that work so hard day in and day out, especially the offensive line.”
Whether Harris would have gotten the same opportunity if Michel were healthy is a fair question, with Michel coming off a strong performance last week, rushing for 117 yards on just nine carries. But Michel’s injury history is becoming concerning, and his inability to stay on the field consistently could bump him down on the New England RB depth chart, especially if Harris can string together strong performances like he showed tonight.
“This was my first real action in a long, long time,” said Harris. Monday night’s game action for the second-year back out of Alabama was his first game with 17 or more touches since November 3, 2018, when the Crimson Tide faced LSU.
“It was definitely great to get back out there. But now, it’s just about recovering and getting myself ready for our next challenge.”