New England Patriots: 4 super bold predictions for 2021 NFL season

FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: Members of the New England Patriots offense
FOXBOROUGH, MA - AUGUST 12: Members of the New England Patriots offense /
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Damien Harris
Running back Damien Harris (37) will lead the way for the Patriots backfield /

3rd Down: The New England Patriots won’t have a 1,000-yard back

Before Belichick sent Sony Michel packing to Los Angeles, I envisioned a highly productive 1-2 punch in the backfield. That doesn’t change with Michel as a member of the Rams.

A case can be made that Stevenson looks better as a pro than he did at Oklahoma. Before he turned the corner and beat the Washington Football Team defense for a 91-yard score, Stevenson’s longest run with Oklahoma was 75 yards.

New England Patriots
New England Patriots /

New England Patriots

The speed is the icing on the cake for Stevenson. The former Sooner is surprisingly nimble for a 6-0 227-pound back. He’s as able to dance around a defender or plow through one before dragging a few for some extra yards.

The only thing keeping Stevenson off the field is Harris. In his third year, Harris enters the 2021 season as the starter. He certainly earned it, leading the Patriots in rushing at a 5 yards per carry pace and three 100-yard games.

So expect 37 and 38 to take turns behind Pro Football Focus’ 2021 third-ranked offensive line. Harris and Stevenson will be highly productive, but because they will be cutting into each other’s carries, neither will catch 2016 LeGarrette Blount. Blount was the last workhorse to eclipse 1K.

As if Harris and Stevenson splitting carries wasn’t enough of a factor, James White and J.J. Taylor are too good to keep on the sidelines.

White is a known commodity, best used as a receiver out of the backfield. Taylor can do that too, just a lot faster. The 5-6 185 pounder is explosive with the ball in his hands and shows surprising contact balance for a player his size. Whether as a runner or receiver, Taylor will generate big plays.

The backfield as a whole should easily produce more than 2,000 yards on the ground, and has a chance to combine for more than 3,000 total yards. If the running backs can be that productive, they will be taking a lot of pressure off of Jones.

And if they make Jones’ job easier…