By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If ever there were an ideal opportunity for a running back to make his NFL debut, Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville was not it. Nevertheless, in a sultry Jacksonville, against a potent Jaguars defense, first-round pick Sony Michel took an NFL field for the first time.
And despite Michel getting the football a fair number of times, the results were not at all what he or the Patriots would have liked.
Michel was on the field for just 13 snaps, and on those 13 snaps he was given the ball 11 times. He rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries, and he had one catch for seven yards. He also seemingly stopped running a route to the flat on one play, leading to an incompletion.
“Unfortunately it didn’t go as we planned it to go, or I planned it to go,” Michel said after the 31-20 Jaguars victory. “But just went out there and played football, it’s football.”
All told, it was a bit of an underwhelming performance for a player selected with the 31st overall pick of April’s draft. Considering the Patriots under Bill Belichick have only once before selected a running back in the first round (2006; Laurence Maroney), the expectations are rather high for Michel for this year and beyond.
But a rough start should have almost been expected, given the circumstances. Michel missed the entire preseason due to a knee procedure, and this was his first real work with the first-team offense. And with the Patriots falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, and with starting right tackle Marcus Cannon out of the game due to a calf injury, it wasn’t the greatest day for a running back to step forth as the star of the show.
Still, despite an impressive lowering of the shoulder into Tashaun Gipson on a 15-yard run up the middle, there weren’t too many flashes from the rookie. James White was the clear-cut best option out of the backfield for the Patriots, as evidenced by his team-leading seven receptions and 73 yards. But Tom Brady said the debut can be a learning experience.
“Sony always works hard, and he had a tough injury during camp and had some opportunities today, and he’ll learn from them,” Brady said. “He ran hard when he had some chances. He’s got some great mentors in James White and Rex [Burkhead] — those guys to learn from. So, hopefully he can keep building on what he has done.”
Michel credited the Jaguars’ defense but said he expects to be better in the future.
“They played as expected — good defense, fast defense and flowing to the ball pretty well. And that’s what they did all day today,” Michel said. “I just gotta do a better job of doing my job.”