Although Damien Harris was drafted to a team that featured an established and deep running backs corps, it still must have been frustrating to only receive four carries in his rookie season. A 3rd round pick in 2018, many have questioned what to expect from Harris in year two. The status of running backs Brandon Bolden, Sony Michel and newly acquired Lamar Miller has given Harris the opportunity to prove himself in camp. Harris has certainly done so, according to multiple reports by those given access to Patriots’ practices.
Jeff Howe of the Athletics reported Harris showed promise in both the running and passing game.
Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal lists Harris as RB1 after what he’s seen at camp thus far. (His statement is an answer to a question about Sony Michel.)
Mike Reiss of ESPN had the following to say when asked about his impression of the running backs group.
Harris credited his offensive line for providing motivation in his media availability on Tuesday. “I love running behind this offensive line. They work hard, and it makes me want to work harder." This camp marks the first time in a calendar year that the offensive line is in full health. David Andrews did not play due to blood clots discovered during a physical in August 2019. Isaiah Wynn missed seven games due to a toe injury suffered in Week Two against Miami. Fullback Jakob Johnson has also been impressive as he returns from a shoulder injury to replace James Develin. The Patriots are one of the few teams left in the NFL who utilize a fullback to establish an effective running game.
Bill Belichick had high praise for the second-year back, indicating Harris should play a serviceable role this year. “He’s had an opportunity to get quite a few reps here in the work that we’ve done to this point, so I think that’s helped him, but he seems like he’s in good shape and ready to go. I'm looking forward to seeing him.”
The former Alabama Sooner is on course to be the #1 back for the 2020 season. Sony Michel led the team in carries in his first two seasons but had a disappointing sophomore year. The team hopes Michel will be healthy by Week One and returned to practice on Wednesday. James White is poised to be the prime receiving back on the team. Rex Burkhead should continue his role as a rotational back unless Lamar Miller can beat him out for a roster spot. Miller has also been on the PUP list with Sony Michel since the start of camp.
Harris rushed for 3,070 yards on 6.4 YPC from 2015-2018 at Alabama. He currently sits 8th all-time in rushing yards for the Crimson Tide football program. His biggest impact in the passing game came in his senior year, posting 22 receptions for 204 yards. Harris took on the responsibility of their feature back in his sophomore year over Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was also drafted in the 2018 Draft and was taken 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders. He rushed for 1,150 yards on 4.7 YPCs and found the end zone 7 times in his rookie campaign. He set rookie team records for rushing yards, yards per carry, and yards per game (88.5). Jacobs was drafted two rounds ahead of Harris, but he should still be expected to produce comparable numbers to Jacobs if given the nod as the lead back this year.