Friday, August 5, 2022

2 Patriots starters at risk of losing their jobs

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The starting roles for the New England Patriots’ Damien Harris and Malcolm Butler are not set in stone, according to NFL.com’s Eric Edholm.

According to Edholm, Harris, the Patriots’ leading rusher for the past two seasons, and Butler, a returning Super Bowl hero, both have something to prove at training camp this summer.

For Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson is the main threat to taking his job. The sophomore, running back from Oklahoma, showed some highlights as a rookie when he rushed for 606 yards with 133 rushes and 5 TDs. Harris still rode the Pats in both categories at 929 and 15, respectively, but it’s not hard to imagine Stevenson matching or eclipsing those totals when given the opportunity.

Edholm suggests the Patriots’ decision to draft not one but two running backs (Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr.) this spring casts doubt on Damien Harris’ long-term suitability for the team. When you also consider that Stevenson could have the higher ceiling as a big playback and receiver, there’s even more reason to think Edholm could have a point.

There may even be a scenario where Harris is traded to an RB-hungry team before the draft. If Stevenson plays well and finishes preseason healthy, Strong proves he’s capable of taking on a similar workload to Rhamondre in 2021 and Ty Montgomery proves to be a replacement for the injured James White, Harris could for draft assets be transferred.

If the Patriots could get a fourth round pick and a fifth round pick for Harris, it would have to be considered a strong deal. That’s a possible scenario to watch during training camp and preseason.

In Butler’s situation, a demotion could be based on the quality of play during training camp. According to reports Edholm is referencing, Butler was set on fire by DeVante Parker, the Patriots’ new No. 1 receiver. Butler sat out the 2021 season during a temporary retirement but returned to football and Foxborough this off-season.

There may be some rust or slip in its game. Either way, strong play from Terrance Mitchell, Jalen Mills, rookie Jack Jones, Johnathon Jones, Joejuan Williams, and even rookie Nickel back Marcus Jones could be bad news for Butler’s Snap Counts this season. Don’t consider trading or releasing Butler for Belichick.

However, it seems less likely given that New England’s biggest question mark is likely to be the cornerback position. Butler is demoted rather than directly traded or fired.

The former Cleveland Browns linebacker was traded to New England in exchange for Chase Winovich. Wilson has performed well in training camp but seems excited to be playing for the Patriots.

During an interview with NFL.com’s D’Angelo Hall, Wilson said, “I understand why the organization has been so successful.” Wilson has a great opportunity to make his mark in a redesigned Patriots defense.

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