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'Continuous improvement' fuels Stevenson's rise

Rhamondre Stevenson continued his breakout season on Sunday against the Jets, showing his all-around potential.

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Rhamondre Stevenson helped lead the Patriots to a pivotal season win over the Jets on Sunday, as the second-year running back is emerging as a do-it-all threat whose strong play has been the team's strongest offensive catalyst so far this season.

He tallied 143 of the Patriots 288 yards of offense in New Jersey.

"Yeah, Mondre just gets better every day," said head coach Bil Belichick on Monday morning. "He's one of the guys that I've coached that really has shown just continuous improvement almost every day he walks into the building. Just in every phase of the game. This kid's really come a long way in just every part of his game."

Stevenson's surprising and unique blend of size, strength, contact balance and speed were evident almost immediately last summer. In his first preseason game as a rookie against Washington Stevenson ripped off a 91-yard touchdown that gave a preview of what he might be able to do once he gained some experience.

In Year 2, it's all coming together, especially in the passing game where he's seen an expanded role after an early-season injury to Ty Montgomery.

Belichick rattled off all the areas where he's made progress.

"[S]ome of the things in the passing game... awareness, route running, blitz pickup, recognition, getting out on fake blitzes, versus reading the difference between fake blitzes and blitzes. In the running game his patience and setting up blocks, running on the second level, stiff arm and contact balance, ball security. You name it. I have a ton of respect for the way he's worked at his game, improved his training habits. He's still got a ways to go. But he just gets better at all the things he works at every day. He's got a long list of them. But he's made significant progress in so many areas. He's really been impressive."

Over the last two weeks Stevenson has caught 15 passes for 131 yards, easily the best stretch of his young career and a sign of his growing all-around impact, which earned him a high-end comparison from teammate Kendrick Bourne following the win.

"He's just all around a great player," said Bourne. "He can catch really well. I tell him all the time, you've got some really good mittens, man. That's what we need. To be able to be versatile, having a pass catcher out of the backfield is so big. He's reminding me of James White. So, just to keep that kind of third-down threat with all our other wideouts and threats, it kind of makes it hard to stop us in a sense. Proud of that dude."

But most impactful has been Stevenson's bread and butter, a hard-charging style on the ground, where making defenders miss and gaining yards after contact are becoming an every-week expectation. His 12 broken tackles and 240 yards after contact both rank among the league's top ten.

Those skills were vital to a game-changing 35-yard run to start the second half against the Jets, as the Patriots were able to take the lead and then pull away. It was a key turning point in the game.

"Very important," said Stevenson of how the game quickly switched complexion around the halftime break. "That's another thing we preach and practice. The second half swing, things like that. So, just scoring twice before they could even touch the ball. That's big."

Still in just his sophomore season, Stevenson is only starting to realize his all-around potential and figures to be among a short list of Patriots team offensive MVP candidates as the season rounds its halfway point. He'll be key to the Patriots playoff hopes as the schedule moves into November and December.

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