FOXBOROUGH — Sony Michel knows the numbers.
New England’s second-year back is averaging just 2.4 yards per tote for a team ranked 20th in rushing yards per game.
Michel also doesn’t really care about those numbers. He points to a more important statistic.
“I’m on a winning team,’’ he said. “There’s guys with good stats, but I’m on a winning team, so …’’
Michel is on point, there’s little to complain about when your team is undefeated, your offense is tied for fifth in total yards, and averaging more than 35 points per game.
It is undeniable, however, that the ground game, which was so vital during last season’s Super Bowl surge, has been struggling.
Not Michel’s burden alone, however.
The offensive line has had some moving parts and lead blocker James Develin has been out the last week and is now parked on injured reserve.
After working through some knee problems last season, Michel surged and finished the season averaging 71.6 rushing yards per game, 10th best in the league. He averaged 4.5 yards a carry en route to a 931-yard, 6-touchdown season. The first-rounder was a beast in the postseason, averaging 112 yards per game with another half-dozen touchdowns.
It’s been a bit more of a struggle this season, with the back averaging just 36 yards per game. He has just 108 rushing yards, second on the club behind Rex Burkhead’s 112 (Michel has had 21 more carries).
Michel isn’t into comparing last season with this season.
“We’ve got to be able to execute,’’ he said. “Can’t rely on what happened last year. We’re a different team, we’re playing against different teams. Just got to be able to take on the challenge.’’
Still, Bill Belichick has seen positive signs from Michel.
“I think he’s had opportunities and he’s done pretty well with those,’’ the coach said. “There’s been times where he hasn’t been able to get started and that’s always a problem with the running game. If you can’t get through the line of scrimmage, you can gain some yards but it’s hard. There are things he can do better. Certainly, we can block better and coach better, so we’ll try to do those and improve in every part of our offense.’’
Michel isn’t making any excuses, such as the lack of continuity on the line or the loss of Develin as reasons for the struggles.
“I just take accountability — try to do the best I can,’’ he said. “It’s not always going to be blocked perfect. Sometimes, the running back’s job is to make guys miss and I have to make guys miss.’’
One guy he’ll miss is Develin, whom he followed “a lot” depending on the call.
“He did a tremendous job,’’ said Michel. “He made a lot of things easy.’’
Michel has faith in the system and in Jakob Johnson, who will be counted on to help fill Develin’s void.
“You build that [chemistry] through preparation and practice,’’ Michel said. “It’s all about earning guys’ trust. That’s how we build our offense. You have to be able to know that the guy next to you is going to be held accountable if he doesn’t do his job. We know that Jakob can do his job, because he’s been doing it. There’s no worries there.’’
Michel is confident the offense will continue to improve and achieve balance, beginning Sunday in Buffalo.
“Our goal is to try and run the ball good,’’ he said. “We’re not going into the game thinking we’re not going to run the ball. I think we’ve got to play good, complementary football.’’
. . .
Tom Brady was removed from the injury/participation report as the veteran quarterback practiced fully during Thursday’s shorts-and-shells session. He had been limited in Wednesday’s full-pads session with a calf issue . . . Left tackle Marshall Newhouse did not practice as he deals with an illness . . . Guard Joe Thuney (shoulder) also was a full participant after being limited Wednesday . . . Receiver Julian Edelman (chest), Burkhead (foot), tight ends Matt LaCosse (ankle) and Ryan Izzo (calf), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder), and special teamer Nate Ebner (groin) were limited . . . For the Bills, cornerback Tre’Davious White (neck) and receiver Zay Jones (shoulder) were among those limited in practice. Veteran running back Frank Gore, 36, was given a rest day . . . According to an ESPN report, the Patriots worked out former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant as well as tight ends Ben Koyack, Gabe Holmes, and Eric Tomlinson. Grant had a four-year run in Washington, where he put together a 45-catch, 573-yard, 4-touchdown campaign in 2017.