The l. a. Rams are becoming some much-needed help within the backfield from a back who starred against them within the Super Bowl. The Rams acquired Sony Michel from the New England Patriots on Wednesday for a conditional selection of later-round picks in next season’s draft. Michel, a first-round pick by the Pats in 2018, could play a big role immediately for a Rams offense running low on healthy options at back with the regular season fast approaching. “We identified Sony for several reasons, No. 1 being his experience,” Rams head Les Snead said.
“Meaning a player who’s carried the ball in big games, in big moments, big drives, big series. The experience of where he played, how he was coached. If we were getting to go the route of experience, he was someone that we were definitely eyeing from the beginning .” The Rams had an up-close view of Michel’s biggest game of all: He rushed for 94 yards and scored the sole touchdown as a rookie in New England’s 13-3 victory over l. a. within the Super Bowl in February 2019.
“When we were preparing for Sony even then, you felt him, even on film,” Snead said. “There’s the cut. He’s getting north and south. A linebacker is meeting him, and he’s getting 2 more yards after the linebacker meets him. That’s Sony.” The Rams already lost two of their top three running backs from last season due to Cam Akers’ season-ending Achilles tendon injury and Malcolm Brown’s departure for Miami. When Darrell Henderson left practice Monday with a sprained thumb, the Rams quickly made a move to bolster the depth of coach Sean McVay’s offense, which didn’t have a healthy back who had ever carried the ball in an NFL game.
In joining the Rams, Michel follows in the footsteps of fellow Georgia product Todd Gurley, who famously claimed he taught the younger Michel “everything” once they were teammates with the Bulldogs. Michel’s position coach in l. a. is going to be Thomas Brown, who was also his position coach at Georgia in 2015.
Michel is scheduled to arrive on the West Coast on Wednesday night, Snead said. Although he grew up in Florida and has spent his life on the East Coast, Michel already has fond memories from Southern California: He rushed for 181 yards and scored four total touchdowns — including the game-winner in double overtime — in Georgia’s epic, 54-48 College Football Playoff victory over Oklahoma at the Rose Bowl in January 2018.
Michel entered the preseason at a pivotal point of his injury-plagued career. The Patriots declined to select up his fifth-year option in May, clearing the way for him to become a free agent after this season. During his rookie campaign, Michel fought through the lingering effects of the left knee injury he suffered as a senior at Georgia. He appeared in eight games and rushed for 931 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 yards per carrying.
But Michel had a superb postseason as a rookie, rushing for 336 yards and scoring six touchdowns in New England’s three playoff games. Only Denver Broncos Hall of Famer Terrell Davis ever rushed for more TDs during a single postseason. Michel appeared in 14 games in 2019, but his production declined. He ran for 912 yards and 7 TDs together with his yards-per-carry average falling to three .7. That average rose to five .7 last season before a quadriceps injury sidelined him for 6 games. The 26-year-old also spent every week on the COVID-19 list.
His contract status left him entering training camp fighting for a roster spot this season in New England . Damien Harris was productive in 2020, his second season, and got most of the snaps. The Patriots drafted former Oklahoma back Rhamondre Stevenson within the fourth round in April, and he joined a depth chart that also includes veteran James White, Brandon Bolden, and J.J. Taylor. Stevenson had two impressive performances during the primary two exhibition games, running for four touchdowns, including a 91-yard score.
The Rams’ depth behind Henderson became suspect last weekend once they lost emerging talent Raymond Calais, who was waived with an injury designation Monday after breaking his foot in their preseason game against Las Vegas. That left only undrafted second-year pro-Xavier Jones, rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk and rookie Otis Anderson to support quarterback Matthew Stafford. Snead said the Rams are confident Jones or Funk can play as their third back if McVay elects to use three backs extensively, as he did last season.