Patriots Urged to Give Benched Rookie ‘More Opportunities’

Getty Bill Belichick

Forget about what Damien Harris did before his back-breaking fumble.

Forget about the continued steady play from veteran running back James White, and while you’re at, disregard the strong training camp and preseason J.J. Taylor had prior to the New England Patriots‘ Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins. I’m being facetious, but some believe rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson needs a larger workload, despite his fumble and blown pass-protection against former Patriots LB Elandon Roberts.

NFL Analyst Insists Rhamondre Stevenson Needs More Carries

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox is aware of Stevenson’s ball-security issues from Week 1, but he still believes the rookie needs more opportunities. Knox wrote:

The Patriots can’t be thrilled with how Damien Harris’ Week 1 outing ended. He fumbled the ball late in a one-point game and likely cost his team the win. Before the fumble, though, Harris rushed for 100 yards, averaged 4.3 yards per carry and caught two passes for 17 yards. Harris played like a lead back should, and New England should be content to allow him to lead the ground game. Still, it was curious to see rookie Rhamondre Stevenson get such a small workload after shining throughout the preseason. According to Next Gen Stats, Stevenson led running backs during the preseason in rushing yards over expected (+111) with almost double the number of any other player. Like Harris, Stevenson lost a fumble against the Dolphins—though as NESN’s Matt Chatham pointed out, that might have been the result of a blown call—but the Patriots need to get a longer look at what the promising fourth-round rookie can do. New England has a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones and should supporting him with the best running game it can provide.

With all due respect to Knox, this sounds like the take of a man who didn’t actually watch and feel the game. If you watched the Patriots last week, you know Stevenson’s fumble, poor effort to recover the ball, and his bad performance in pass protection were a big deal.

James White and J.J. Taylor Have a Ton to Offer

White was fantastic on Sunday. The ever-steady veteran running back had 4 rushes for 12 yards, but predictably was more of a weapon in the passing game. White caught 6 passes for 49 yards and accounted for 2 first downs.

His versatility continues to be a plus, and quite honestly, it is hard to imagine Stevenson providing more quality snaps than White at this stage of his career. Taylor was inactive for Week 1, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him switch places with Stevenson for the battle against the New York Jets.

Belichick is normally hard on rookie running backs, so he went against his normal trend giving Stevenson such an early look. With Taylor likely capable of filling in, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the diminutive second-year back get a chance to shine.


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