Patriots’ Promising Rookie Demoted After Nightmarish Debut

Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson.

Getty Patriots rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson.

It might be safe to assume New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson is in Bill Belichick’s dog house.

After being active for Week 1 and getting some early touches, Stevenson was a healthy scratch for the Week 2 meeting with the New York Jets. That’s not a good sign and Stevenson was inactive on Sunday, September 19 so he didn’t suit up for the Patriots’ 25-6 win over the Jets.

That’s a pretty healthy list of notable names, but the Patriots still managed to come away with the victory.


Why Rhamondre Stevenson as Left Inactive

Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears was critical of his running backs’ lack of ball security in Week 1. He specifically spoke to Stevenson’s first-half fumble. Fears said, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss:

“He has to learn no matter when the ball comes out, even though you may think you’re down, the evidence doesn’t always back you. You have to hand the ball to the ref. That should be your goal.”

Fears often administers tough love to players who report to him. He had a similar spiel for Damien Harris. Fears understands the importance of protecting the football in general, and even more so for a running back.

The run game is designed to be a ball-control, more conservative attack where possession is less likely to be lost. That’s why fumbles by running backs are so costly. They are frowned upon even more when rookies display the tendency to put the pigskin on the field.

Stevenson hasn’t built up enough equity to handle fumbling. When you compound this problem with him getting blown away in pass protection like this just a few plays later:

It is easier to see why his playing time drastically decreased.


Will Stevenson Get Another Chance to Prove Himself in 2021?

Throughout his time as head coach of the Patriots, Belichick hasn’t been quick to give rookie running backs a lot of opportunities. Harris didn’t get a ton of opportunities in 2019 because Sony Michel was the bell cow at running back.

Harris battled some injuries, but mostly he wasn’t quite up to speed until the 2020 season when showed his potential.

Because of this bit of history with running backs in the Belichick’s system, it was a little surprising to see Stevenson get so many touches in his first game. However, he’d had an excellent preseason and the Patriots felt comfortable enough to send Sony Michel to the Los Angeles Rams because of Stevenson’s presence and Taylor. That said, if Harris, James White and Taylor remain healthy, it might be tough for Stevenson to find himself active a ton this year. White has been excellent as a versatile back.

Harris looks like he’s headed to a Pro Bowl and Taylor is a deceptively powerful, but still quick change-of-pace guy. As it stands, the Patriots are in a great spot at running back with or without Stevenson. Only an injury will change that dynamic.

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