There have been a lot of rookie running backs come through the Patriots program since Bill Belichick took over in 2000. Sony Michel’s performance this season has been better than all of them.
The Patriots first-round draft pick has 881 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns this season. Michel has run for more rushing yards than any rookie running back under Belichick, beating Laurence Maroney’s 2006 mark (745 yards). His six rushing touchdowns are tied with Maroney for the most under Belichick.
“Yeah, well, I mean, he’s a good back,” Belichick said on Wednesday. “He’s a good player, runs well, takes care of the ball, he’s tough, he’s got good playing strength, runs through some arm tackles. He’s still got a lot to learn, still a lot of things that he can work on, but he’s a tough kid, he’s smart, he works hard, he’s out there every day, so he keeps getting better. That’s a good thing.”
For a player who’s missed three games, Michel’s been one of the best rookie running backs to come through the Patriots franchise. This season, he’s averaging 73.4 rushing yards per game, which is ninth best in the NFL. With one more game to go, Michel has the fifth most rushing yards for a rookie running back in Patriots history behind Curtis Martin (1,487 in 1995), John Stephens (1,168 in 1998), Robert Edwards (1,115 in 1998) and Leonard Russell (959 in 1991).
Michel’s 4.52 yards per carry is the second most among Patriots rookie running backs with at least 150 attempts. His six rushing touchdowns are tied for the fourth most in Patriots rookie history.
“He’s very mentally tough,” James White said Michel. “He works extremely hard. He’s taking the coaching. It can be tough – your rookie year is a long season. It can be tough for you, but he’s staying motivated, excited to be out there and he comes ready to work each and every day and he comes ready to play each and every Sunday. He’s helped us out a lot and he’s had a lot of success out there. He’ll continue to get better.”