NFL Preseson: New England Patriots rookies vs. NY Giants rookies

New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
New England Patriots running back Pierre Strong Jr (54). Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

RBs Pierre Strong Jr./Kevin Harris vs. LBs Micah McFadden/Darrian Beavers

Leading up to the draft, I emphatically stated how much I loved Darrian Beavers, but didn’t believe he was a fit for a New England Patriots team looking to get faster at the position. What better way to find out if I was right or wrong than seeing if he can stop Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris?

New England’s two new ball carriers are very different players. Strong resembles former first round pick Darren McFadden, an upright runner with breakaway speed. While Harris is a compact north-south between the tackles grinder. Their different styles will challenge the Giants’ Micah McFadden and Beavers.

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A lot is made of Strong’s straight line speed, but his lateral quickness stands out. He’s excellent at side-stepping closed holes and bouncing runs outside for big gains. Harris’ physical gift is his low center of gravity and run strength. He’s able to gain yards after contact or power through for tough yards.

The question that Strong has to answer is does his game belie his last name? At just 200 pounds, can Strong be physical enough to get the tough yards? His level of competition wasn’t as physical as the likes of McFadden and Beavers. Running away won’t always be an option for Strong.

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Harris knows that about himself, but he can’t take on McFadden and Beavers every time. Harris is a plodder, so he needs to have enough wiggle to avoid direct hits from the two sure tacklers. Taking glancing blows off the shoulders will give Harris opportunities to break long gains.

The final question is whether Strong and Harris can be options in the passing game. Strong is more proven as a receiver (42 receptions), though Harris had 21 receptions in his lone season as the Gamecocks workhorse.

New England has a crowded backfield and the Patriots probably can’t keep both rookies. If one has better hands, he can at least position himself as a future third down back after James White retires.