FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots lost rookie running back Sony Michel to a knee injury early in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, it continued a frustrating run of injuries for the team at the position.
As Michel undergoes more tests to determine the severity of the ailment, the Patriots -- who have already placed Jeremy Hill (torn ACL) and Rex Burkhead (concussion) on injured reserve -- might have to consider alternative plans with only two other running backs on the roster: James White and Kenjon Barner.
“When guys like him go down, guys like myself and Kenjon just have to step in and fill the void and make the most of the opportunities we get,” said White, one of the team’s captains. “We both run hard and try to get open in pass routes, and just try to find a way to make plays.”
White and Barner did that for the final three quarters Sunday, but relying on that to continue would be a risky approach. It might be OK for one game (the Patriots dressed just two running backs in their Oct. 4 win over the Colts), but not a multiple-game stretch.
That’s why the Patriots could be forced into some type of move -- a free-agent signing, trade acquisition or practice-squad promotion -- until they have more certainty on Michel's timeline. At this point, someone close to Michel's situation texted the following to ESPN's Adam Schefter: "Expect it will be a little bit, but not overly serious. Won't know until they look at it Monday."
Another layer to the decision-making process is with Burkhead, who is making progress and eligible to return from IR in early December, and thus creates a situation where the Patriots also can view their current situation as a "bridge" until that potentially happens. But that also comes with some risk, because Burkhead has been in and out of the lineup with multiple injuries.
Free-agent possibilities. Veteran Mike Gillislee, who was with the team in training camp but beaten out by Hill for a roster spot, is available and open to a return. His performance wasn’t overly inspiring in training camp and preseason, but he knows the system and should be in football shape from having joined the Saints after being cut in New England. In addition to Gillislee, the Patriots previously brought in free agents Charcandrick West, Andre Ellington, Orleans Darkwa and Charles Sims for workouts to update their emergency lists, and they are some of the most experienced options on the market. Taking another look at them, as well as options on practice squads across the NFL, would be standard operating procedure.
Practice-squad promotions. The only current in-house option is Kenneth Farrow, who was with the team briefly at the end of the preseason and then was brought back on the practice squad for an eight-day stretch in mid-September and then again on Oct. 9 to replace undrafted rookie Ralph Webb. Farrow entered the NFL in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Houston, and played in 13 games for the Chargers that year before spending 2017 on injured reserve. At 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds, Farrow totaled 60 rushes for 192 yards (3.2 average) and had 13 receptions for 70 yards as a rookie.
Trade options. While the Patriots are thin at the position, the Seahawks are one club that has some notable depth, so a player like Mike Davis (5-foot-9, 217 pounds) could be worthy of a look. He entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2015 and had solid production in Week 4 of this season. For those thinking of the biggest splash, such as Le'Veon Bell, my opinion is that wouldn't be on the Patriots' radar. But director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler are often working the phones at this time of year to explore various options, and sometimes notable opportunities come up unexpectedly.