The New England Patriots currently have 6 running backs on their roster. Out of those six guys, there’s one name/storyline that keeps getting brought up: Rhamondre Stevenson and what role he’ll have on this Patriots team. His size and highlights had Pats fans very intrigued coming out of the draft. And when he got labeled a ‘LeGarrette Blount who can catch’, that interest skyrocketed. Oh, and he also did this during his first preseason game:
What a run by Rhamondre Stevenson! 91-yard touchdown.👀😳(Via @FTBVids_YT)
— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) August 13, 2021
Now, that running back room may seem a bit crowded, but not all those guys will be used as traditional backs. Brandon Bolden is solidified as a core special teamer who rarely sees offensive playing time. James White gets a small amount of carries, but he’s primarily used as a pass catching back. Second year man JJ Taylor showed will likely fill that ‘do everything’ role Rex Burkhead had and probably return a fair amount of kicks as well. That leaves Damien Harris, Sony Michel and Rhamondre Stevenson as your ‘pure’ backs who will snag the bulk of the handoffs.
Damien Harris, to the surprise of no one, has firmly planted himself as the lead back going into 2021. Harris had 137 rushes last season for 691 yards and 2 TD’s averaging 5 yards per run. That’s pretty good. And when you realize he only played in 10 games, it looks even better. He’s the RB1 for this team.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) June 28, 2021
So that leaves the battle of Sony Michel vs Rhamondre Stevenson. Michel’s rookie season started off rough with injuries, but he eventually put it all together. Sony set the record for most playoff TD’s by any rookie RB ever on his way to a Super Bowl win, but he has since fell out of fans good graces. His play dwindled a tad in his second year with 19 less yards on 38 more carries than he had the season prior. Last year was a mess with Sony playing in only 9 games with 79 rushes for 449 and a touchdown which forced the Pats to decline his 5th year option. Warranted or not, Sony Michel is a very polarizing figure around the Patriots fanbase and he has a lot of prove this year.
Rhamondre Stevenson on the other hand is getting nothing but praise from Patriot Nation. And that should be a surprise to no one. The way he plays would be endearing to any fanbase with his quickness and power on display every time he touches the ball. And with Michel likely in his last year in New England, it brings up the question: What role with Rhamondre Stevenson have on the 2021 Patriots?
Well, I hate to burst some fans bubbles, but I don’t see Stevenson uprooting Michel for that second RB spot. That’s not to say he won’t be a good player for the team for years to come, but I just don’t believe this is the season where that happens. And there’s a little precedent to prove it. Just take a look at 2019.
Two years ago, the Patriots had Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris handling the ball. Harris was viewed in a very similar light to how Stevenson is looked at right now. A fresh, new, exciting back who looks like he can really make some plays. But do you know what happened that year? Harris only played in 2 games. Sony Michel got the majority of the carries while White and Burkhead played the pass catcher role while also tallying a fair amount of carries. Just like that season, I see Stevenson as the odd man out unfortunately. Only this time, Harris will take most of the carries, Michel will pick up the remainder while White gets his handful of carries while being a receiving threat out of the backfield. Add in JJ Taylor and the 4th round pick doesn’t seem to have a carved out role yet.
It just makes too much sense. Especially with Michel in a contract year and wanting to prove himself. And the team wanting him to prove himself as well so he can be a valuable potential trade option. Not only that, but the quotes around Stevenson are similar to the ones that came out about Harris a couple years ago. RB Coach Ivan Fears said this about Damien Harris during that 2019 season:
“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to. He’s working hard, he’s healthy and everything’s going well. We just haven’t had the injuries we normally have at this position. We’ve been very healthy. And it’s kind of hard to carry five backs for the game. We got some guys that do a lot of work on special teams and until he develops a roll there then he gets a chance to be a part of that gameday roster. Damien has done a great job, he really has. I love to see him. I think he’s got a great future and I think he’s going to be a really good back in this league.”
Now compare that quote to what Fears said about Stevenson earlier this offseason:
““That kind of body” Fears said, via WEEI.com. “That kind of athletic ability. He’s probably a better pass receiver than even LeGarrette was. This kid has got pretty good hands. There are a lot of doors open here. We’ll see what sticks to him.””
In both instances, Fears seems to be giving off the ‘wait and see’ vibe while simultaneously showing some excitement to what the future holds. Now, of course, there was the more recent quote where Fears came off a little more crass when asked what Stevenson needed to improve on…
“Everything, everything. What do I like about him? He’s here. I like that he’s here, other than that, everything’s gotta improve. That’s what we have to get done. He’s got a lot to learn, he’s talented, we’ll see what he can do in games, but right now, he’s got a lot to learn…a lot to learn.
Putting the ball in his hands, and telling him to go, that’s the easy stuff. But out game is a hell of a lot more complicated than that. There’s a lot out there going on that he’s got to figure out about pro football, and about being a professional, about making plays, all the aspects of the game, other than that, he’s going to be on the sideline most of the game. Hey, he’s got a lot to learn, he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Not exactly what one would call a glowing review, but that was almost two weeks ago. A lot can change in that time. And it would appear a lot has change as he got a good amount of playing time in the first preseason game and we haven’t heard any more quotes like that since. But still, the “a lot to learn” line being said over and over would lend credence to the idea that he, like Harris in his rookie year, won’t be seeing the field as much as some fans clamor for.
At the end of the day, this is a good problem to have for New England. To have too much talent at a position is an issue any team would love to have. And you can rest assured that, when the chips are down, Bill Belichick is going to play who he believes gives this chance the best shot at winning week in and week out. And if that happens to be Rhamondre Richardson, great. But if not, it’s In Bill We Trust, as it should be.
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(Featured Photo Credit: drroto.com)