On Wednesday, running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Gunner Olszewski returned to Patriots practice for the first time since training camp.
The two started the year on injured reserve and Wednesday was the earliest day they could return to practice. The Patriots now have up to 21 days to activate them to the 53-man roster with the earliest being in time for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.
New England has one open roster spot, so only one corresponding move would need to be made.
So, what would the return of these two players potentially mean for the offense?
With Harris, it would create a logjam at the running back position with James White likely returning this week. The Patriots would unlikely have all five — Harris, White, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead — active for the game, so a decision would have to be made if in fact Harris is added to the roster.
Our best guess is Harris’ return will be slow played to allow for things to work themselves out.
But, if Harris does return and is active, he gives the offense another shifty running back who can do multiple things, including catching passes out of the backfield. Harris was one of the most impressive players over the summer and seemed primed to make a real impact in the running game. He’s more like Burkhead than Michel when it comes to quickness and ability to make defenders miss.
As for Olszewski, he too was one of the better offensive players in training camp and seemed like a player who could help out in the passing game. Besides Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry, the Patriots are still looking for someone to be dependable at the receiver position. Damiere Byrd has shown flashes of being a solid No. 3 wide out, but hasn’t been consistent over the three games.
If Olszewski can assume the No. 3 role and then Byrd slides into No. 4, the Patriots all of a sudden have a decent wide receiving core. Now, this is an optimistic view of things as Olszewski only has two career catches after being placed on IR in the middle of last year.
Regardless, having these players back in the mix will only help the Patriots offense.