New England Patriots running back Damien Harris caught many a sharp eye with his outstanding performance in training camp. In fact, the sophomore pro had been so impressive that many considered him to be a worthy challenger to Sony Michel for the starting role.
At the same time, undrafted rookie free agent J.J. Taylor turned some heads of his own in the ground game. The former Arizona Wildcat displayed both shiftiness and tenacity; leading running backs coach Ivan Fears to compare him to ex-Patriot Dion Lewis.
As the Patriots prepare to open the 2020 season, only one of them will take the Gillette Stadium field.
At least, for now.
On Monday, New England officially placed Harris on injured reserve Monday, and elevated Taylor to the 53-man roster from the 16-man practice squad. The transactions were first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.
Harris was selected in the third-round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Alabama. After making sporadic appearances during his first year in New England, Harris emerged as a versatile, dual-threat back, capable of first/second down carries and receiving out of the backfield. However, he had recently become conspicuous by his absence at Patriots practice after reportedly undergoing finger surgery. Based on the league’s IR guidelines, Harris will be eligible to return to the active roster before October.
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In the meantime, Taylor will take Harris’ spot on the active depth chart. At 5-foot-6, 185-pounds, Taylor had been a threat from scrimmage, as well as in the return game. He rushed for 3,750 yards, collecting 20 touchdowns. On special teams, he averaged just over 24 yards per kickoff return in the Pac-12.
Taylor will join Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead in the New England backfield as the Patriots prepare to host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 p.m. ET.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and Columnist for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. He is also the host of the Locked On Patriots podcast. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC