Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: #Patriots RB Damien Harris Was Productive Despite the Rust

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Patriots RB Damien Harris’ 2020 debut. Although he gained over 100 yards against the Chiefs, Waldman shows where Harris left yards on the field—likely due to rust. 

The Damien Harris I saw on Monday Night Football was not the Damien Harris I watched at Alabama. When he was the Crimson Tide’s running back, Harris ran with a shifty style that emphasized dramatic changes of direction—sometimes to a fault.

Not so in New England. If you didn’t know Harris’ game as a collegian, you would have characterized him this week as a straight-line, downhill runner who might lack enough imagination to maximize yardage. Despite sporting this style of play, Harris earned 100 yards against the Chiefs, and with Sony Michel on IR, Harris should earn significant touches moving forward.

Based on what I saw below, Harris was either rusty or he’s taken coaching beyond the intent of the instruction. He left a lot of yards on the field with decisions that were out of character for him.

Most likely, it’s rust, and if that’s the case, expect better play in the coming weeks—even if the production isn’t as good as Monday night. While I’m optimistic that we’ll see more dynamic movement from Harris in the coming weeks, there is a risk that he has changed his style for the worse, and he’s not playing to his potential.

If the worst-case scenario unfolds, you’ll see a stagnant running back who repeatedly misses clear opportunities to bounce or cutback to open space. If we see the best-case, Harris could lead this backfield in rushing.

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