New England Patriots: Bet on a Damien Harris 1500-yard rushing season

New England Patriots. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
New England Patriots. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Following a breakout season in 2021, New England Patriots running back Damien Harris is looking for more in 2022.

That is veteran running back Damien Harris.

As the Alabama product enters his fourth year in the NFL, he is not only looking forward to topping his performance in 2021, but he also motivated to rush his way into more of a leadership role.  As the projected featured back in the Patriots running game this upcoming season, Harris has experience is now on his side.

"“I’m fortunate because I’ve been here for a decent amount of time now, and I’m kind of leaning into a little bit of a different role now,” Harris said following Friday’s practice, via NESN.  “But I just like to come out here and be my best.  I don’t like to come out here and count the days or anything like that.  I just like to come out here and play football.”"

Selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Harris stood on the sidelines and watched during his rookie season in the NFL.  Then in 2020 he got his opportunity and never looked back after that.

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris rushing for more in 2022

Just shy of a 1,000-yard rushing the ball, Harris put his name on the map as one of the NFL’s top backs with 929 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.  He also caught the ball 18 times out of the backfield for 132 yards.  That production came despite a few games in which he ran for 14 yards and another where he rushed for negative yards.

With competition coming from second year back Rhamondre Stevenson and a couple of rookies drafted in 2022, including Kevin Harris, a sixth-round pick who exhibits a similar running style, the veteran in Harris knows his rise as a top running back in the league will involve leadership.  It also involves knowing his job isn’t safe.  Just like he rushed past Sony Michel as the lead back, Stevenson or one of the younger running backs can do the same for him.

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But, as an “older” player, Harris isn’t looking over his shoulder because he knows the focus is to do the best he can every day and the rest will take care of itself.

"“(I’m) just becoming an older guy in the organization,” Harris continued. “I say ‘older’ even though I’m still kind of young, but I’m moving up there a little bit. And I know that as time goes on, more responsibilities come. But I’m embracing it every day. …“Being a little bit of an older guy in the room now, I don’t really feel any extra pressure or responsibility, because every day when I step out here, my goal is to be my best. And I know that if I’m my best, I can push other people to be their best, as well, with that energy and enthusiasm — just me doing my job and trying to help other guys do their jobs and be their best. That’s really my mentality every day.”"

Entering the final year of his rookie deal, there has been some rumblings that Damien Harris could be traded either during training camp or somewhere in the season.  That would be a mistake by Bill Belichick as the New England Patriots finally have that all-around back, they have been searching for.  Money aside, Harris has a great relationship with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and encompasses all the qualities Belichick looks for in a running back.

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In fact, he has showcased an element of leadership even as a younger player and that should add to his value in a Patriots’ uniform in 2022.  Unless Stevenson really emerges as a dominate back in Year 2 of his NFL career, Harris should further cement himself as a top 10 running back in the NFL if he stays healthy.

So here’s a bold prediction to conclude this article, bet on a 1500-yard rushing season from Damien Harris in 2022 and a contract extension with the New England Patriots.