The New England Patriots might be the deepest team in the NFL at running back. However, there is some doubt as to whether one of their young horses will be available for the season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson suffered a dislocated thumb, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, but there is “some optimism” he could still play.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots err on the side of caution with Stevenson. He’s a promising young player and the team has great depth at his position.
Rhamondre Stevenson’s Emergence Made Sony Michel Expendable
Stevenson’s emergence helped convince the Patriots to trade veteran Sony Michel to the RB-thirsty Los Angeles Rams last month. The thought appears to be that with Damien Harris, Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden and veteran third-down specialist James White, the Patriots have more than enough to get the job done at running back.
That could still be the case if Stevenson is out, but the other options don’t bring a combination of size, power, soft hands in the passing game and the speed to break off a 91-yard TD run as the rookie did in the Patriots’ first preseason game against the Washington Football Team.
Sports Illustrated’s Mike D’Abate talked about Stevenson’s value:
After being selected by New England in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Stevenson is coming off of an impressive preseason, compiling 217 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three preseason games. Though New England typically prefers to take a more temporant approach to developing their rookie running backs, their trade of Sony Michel seems to imply a more prominent role for the former Oklahoma Sooner. Stevenson possesses the necessary intangibles to be an effective option in both situational runs, or even receiving out of the backfield.
Because of everything Stevenson is capable of doing on the field, that might be even more reason we see him rested in Week 1.
The Patriots Have Other Alternatives in the Backfield
Don’t be surprised if you see Versatile tight end Jonnu Smith get some touches out of the backfield. He has shown he has the ability to make plays as a ball carrier and he has an obvious talent as a pass catcher.
Take a look at this clip from his days with the Tennessee Titans:
Having an elite offensive line helps. The Patriots could have one of the five best offensive lines in football. They lost Joe Thuney, but returned David Andrews, elite second-year player Michael Onwenu, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn and they re-acquired Trent Brown. Expectations are high for this group who showed their dominance during the preseason.
Because of the overall depth at running back and the proficiency across the offensive line, the Patriots’ running game should be fine on Sunday–with or without Stevenson. However, when the rookie does take the field, expect him to make an impact.
The Patriots might have the biggest gem in the 2021 NFL Draft if he can continue the momentum he started during the preseason.
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