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Patriots reportedly activate Sony Michel off injured reserve, let Derek Rivers and Hjalte Froholdt go

Related: Defensive tackle Nick Thurman rejoins Patriots’ practice squad in sequence of moves

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Update 11/21/2020: Patriots reportedly activate Sony Michel off injured reserve, let Derek Rivers and Hjalte Froholdt go

The Patriots activating Sony Michel off injured reserve and parting ways with second-year offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt along the way was not the only move made by the club: as first reported by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, New England has also parted ways with outside linebacker Derek Rivers.

A third-round draft pick out of Youngstown State back in 2017, Rivers’ career with the Patriots was marked by injuries: he missed both his rookie campaign and his third year on injured reserve, and saw only limited action in between those two stints on the sidelines. While he was fully healthy this year besides a back injury that limited him in Week 7, the 26-year-old failed to carve out a regular spot in the defensive edge rotation.

While Rivers did appear in eight of a possible nine games so far this season, he only was on the field for 86 of a possible 537 defensive snaps (16%) while registering 1.5 sacks — all of which in the first two weeks of the year. With Chase Winovich and John Simon serving as the one-two punch at the position, and with second-round rookie Josh Uche and Tashawn Bower also in the fold, Rivers was more of a luxury than a need.

His release will now free up another spot on the Patriots’ roster. That spot is expected to go to second-year off-the-ball linebacker Terez Hall.

Original story 11/21/2020: Patriots reportedly activate Sony Michel off injured reserve, waive offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt

One day before their Week 11 matchup against the Houston Texans, it seems the New England Patriots decided to bolster one of the deepest position groups on their roster: as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the team has officially activated running back Sony Michel from injured reserve to its 53-man roster.

Michel was moved to injured reserve before the Patriots’ Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coming off the best game of his season up until that point — one during which he gained 117 rushing yards on nine carries and also caught two passes for 23 yards — the former first-round draft pick popped up on New England’s injury report due to a quad ailment and as a result was a limited practice participant all week.

Michel was later deactivated for the road game in Kansas City and just a few hours after the announcement sent to IR. Accordingly, he had to sit out three games before being allowed to return to practice. While he was originally eligible to come back in Week 8, it took him until one week later to rejoin his teammates.

While Michel was out, the Patriots turned to Damien Harris as their new lead back. The second-year runner, who was selected in the third round of last year’s draft, fared well in this increased role: he carried the football 85 times over the last six games while gaining an average of 5.5 yards per attempt for a total of 471. Harris also scored his first career touchdown along the way and registered three 100-yard rushing games.

For comparison, Michel received 26 carries over his three pre-injury games which he took for 173 yards with a 6.7-yard average. He also found the end zone once.

The Patriots will therefore face an interesting decision after activating Michel today: How will they split reps between the two early-down backs? While Harris has certainly earned top billing, Michel also looked good early during the season. One thing is certain, though, namely that the team’s already deep backfield has just gotten even deeper.

With Michel now set to join the 53-man team, however, New England also had to make a follow-up move. That move was waiving second-year offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt. While the former fourth-round draft pick had earned a roster spot as a backup along the interior line, he was effectively only an emergency option: Froholdt played just 61 offensive snaps over two games this year, and fell behind veteran James Ferentz on the depth chart.

Now, his time on the active roster has come to an end. The 24-year-old will now be exposed to waivers, but if going unclaimed appears to be a prime candidate for the Patriots’ practice squad.