A trio of Patriots rookies have made significant contributions to the team this season, and while the quarterback garners the most attention, running back Rhamondre Stevenson has provided a jolt to New England's backfield. This year, when Stevenson and Damien Harris have both been active and playing complementary roles, the offense has been at its best.
"I think Rhamondre, speaking on us as rookies, coming in together, we've tried to work hard as a rookie class to be able to help the team," said Mac Jones on Wednesday afternoon. "He's done a great job just coming in, working really hard, lifting, running, making plays when his number is called. He's done a great job and I love playing with a running back group that we have."
"Being a pro, every day it's a different challenge, I would say that's that what I had to get used to," said Stevenson on Thursday of assimilating into NFL life. "Every day is a new day and you've really got to focus on that day, you can't focus ahead, neither on the past. I would say that's the biggest thing I've really learned from being in the NFL is it's an everyday challenge and you've gotta love it."
Stevenson's two best games of the season, Cleveland (20 carries, 100 yards, two touchdowns) and Jacksonville (19 carries, 107 yards, two touchdowns) were also the offense's best games, as it's becoming clear that the Patriots' playoff hopes will depend heavily on how the running game performs. When they're firing on all cylinders it's usually because Harris and Stevenson are taking turns making productive runs, keeping each other fresh and finishing off drives by carrying the ball into the end zone.
His hard-charging ways have been an energizing element for the offense.
"I think as a running back you should never wanna get tackled, especially by the first person," said Stevenson of his yards-after-contact focus. "I think that's my mindset, you've always got to make at least one or two people miss on every play, that's how I try to come into every play."
While some might've considered the fourth-round pick an afterthought from a draft that also landed Jones and Christian Barmore, he instantly showed he could contribute in the preseason, highlighted by a 91-yard touchdown run in the opening game against the Washington Football Team.
As for all rookies, the season has been a learning experience, but Stevenson looks primed for the final games.
"Rhamondre has improved a lot," said Bill Belichick earlier this week. "He only had one year at Oklahoma. I think he picked up a lot there, but he's just continued to develop in all areas: running, pass protection, blitz pickup, just overall patience in the running game, decision making, ball security. He's worked really hard. Give the kid a lot of credit. He's been asked to do a lot of things and he's put in the extra time, really embraced the coaching and the detail that he's gotten, tried to execute it, and has improved tremendously. I think he's earned everyone's respect for his work ethic and his willingness to help the team in any way he can."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots moved practice outside on a chilly Thursday after practicing inside the Socios.com Field House on Wednesday and the attendance remained the same, with Kyle Dugger (hand) being the only player missing who is not on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The new no. 59 was LaRoy Reynolds who signed as a free agent with the team last offseason but was released with an injury settlement at the end of May prior to minicamp. The veteran special teamer should provide some depth with Dugger and Myles Bryant currently unable to practice.
Quotes of Note
Davon Godchaux on returning to Miami to face the Dolphins:
"I'm so excited. It's Miami this week but I can tell you I'm excited for the playoffs, not having been there my whole career. I'm so excited to be one of the few games on TV when that time comes but we have to get past Miami first and our focus is on the Dolphins. They're not going to the playoffs but they have a really good team."
Matthew Judon on what it's been like playing for Bill Belichick:
"I really enjoy it. I love his energy that he has for the game and what he shows us in meetings and his personality. I just never knew him, never had the pleasure of actually sitting down with him and actually talking to him, so I say that's something I didn't know about him that I'm starting to learn."