The New England Patriots pride themselves on playing fundamentally sound football and not beating themselves, but they have not been entirely successful in those departments so far this season. One area stands out in particular: turnovers.
Through five games, the Patriots have turned the ball over nine times. Of those giveaways, four came courtesy of the running back position. Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor lost one fumble each, with Damien Harris adding two more.
Harris’ in particular are noteworthy given where they happened on the field: both of his fumbles came in the red zone to end potential scoring drives. The first happened on opening day against the Miami Dolphins, sealing New England’s loss; the second took place against the Houston Texans on Sunday just before he was crossing the goal line.
Needless to say, his position coach sees some room for improvement.
“He has to understand how important it is to carry the ball,” Ivan Fears said during a media conference call on Tuesday. “If he carries it with the right technique, the right emphasis on proper handling of the football at all time, I don’t think we’ll have this problem.”
The Patriots’ number one running back, Harris had one fumble on 142 touches last season. This year, he already has two despite only handling the ball 70 times.
Something clearly has to change, but Fears made sure to point out that Harris altering his running style would not be the solution.
“Damien has been very successful at carrying the ball all year last year, and then this year, I’m not sure exactly what’s going through his mind at certain times. It seems to be something we’re going to have to stay on top of, and keep working at. Now, I don’t want him to change who he is as a runner either; that’s important to us. His production is based on running hard and being a physical runner and getting extra yards,” he said.
“All those things are very important, but somewhere along the line, we have to understand that if we let the ball go, it’s a problem. It’s a real problem. We can’t have the ball out of our hands.”
So, what will the Patriots do to address the issue? According to Fears the answer is simple: just keep working on it.
“We’re going to be working at it,” he said. “It’s not something anybody is happy about. I doubt the players are happy about it. We’re not happy about it, but the only way you change that stat is doing it through playing.”