Rhamondre Stevenson was second in rushing yards for the Patriots behind Damien Harris during his rookie season, but he didn’t make much noise in the passing game.
Stevenson caught 14 passes while Brandon Bolden stepped into a bigger role as a receiver after James White was lost for the year with a hip injury. White has retired and Bolden left for the Raiders, so there’s an opportunity to pick up some snaps that went elsewhere last year.
Based on head coach Bill Belichick’s response to a question about Stevenson’s ability in the pass game on Tuesday, the 2021 fourth-round pick will be a contender for that role.
“Mondre’s done a really good job improving his pass game skills, starting with blitz pickup and protection,” Belichick said. “Route running — he’s got good hands, catching the ball’s never really been an issue. It’s setting up defenders, recognizing coverages, when to sit down, when to break, depending on what the rest of the pattern is, how to maximize the distribution on the pattern. The back’s always kind of the last person in the pattern for flare control. So, whatever the rest of the players are running, the back is generally responsible for filling in — being in the right spot so the quarterback has an outlet. . . . Each play’s a little bit different. A lot of times the backs, even their release through or around the line of scrimmage – depending on what’s going on with the rush – can be quite different from play to play. . . . He’s way better than he was last year and he understands that’s an important part of his game. It’s not just carrying the ball, it’s all things that go with the passing game. So, he’s done a great job.”
Harris remains on hand with Ty Montgomery and rookie Pierre Strong serving as other possibilities to work out of the backfield, but continued progress from Stevenson could make him the biggest beneficiary of the changes in the backfield in New England.