Rhamondre Stevenson Struggles Could Lead to Patriots RB Switch: Insider

Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots running back

Getty Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots running back

While the focus of the Patriots’ running game heading into Week 4 was, understandably, the emotional return to Dallas for Ezekiel Elliott, who played seven mostly stellar seasons with the Cowboys before the sides split ways in March, there probably should be more attention being paid to the status of lead back Rhamondre Stevenson.

Because though we are just three weeks into the year, and though there are reasons—namely, large early deficits in the first two weeks and the injury-pocked offensive line—why the Pats’ running game numbers have been depressed, there is still some lingering concern about Stevenson. He has picked up just 134 yards on 46 carries this season, and just 77 yards on 10 catches.

That’s well off the pace of numbers he put up last season, when he totaled 1,461 yards from scrimmage.

The numbers have not been in Stevenson’s favor, and he could lose out more and more carries to Elliott as the team goes forward. As The Athletic beat writer Chad Graff wrote last week: “(Stevenson) needs to play better or he’s going to keep losing carries to Elliott.”

Stats Show Zeke Elliott Outperforming Stevenson

Certainly, the simple stats show that Stevenson is struggling through three games, independent of Elliott. He is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, well off the 4.8 yards he averaged in his first two seasons in New England. Elliott has been much better on a per-carry basis, averaging 4.4 yards.

Graff pointed to some advanced numbers and those, in the end, showed much the same thing: Elliott is outperforming Stevenson.

As Graff wrote, “Among running backs with at least 15 carries, Stevenson ranks 32nd in success rate and 42nd in expected points added, according to Tru Media. In those same categories, Elliott ranks 17th and 30th.”

Graff went on to say there was no pressing concern from Stevenson or coach Bill Belichick. Not yet, at least.

“I talked to Stevenson last week, and he said he feels good and is looking forward to showcasing the same abilities as last season,” Graff wrote. “Belichick also praised Stevenson when asked about the running back’s slow start, so neither seems concerned.”

Stevenson: ‘A Little Too Patient’

No question, the state of the Patriots offensive line, which has been in constant flux because of injury, has a lot to do with the struggles of Stevenson. But he said there is more to it than that—even if he, as Graff said, is not too worried about the numbers yet.

“I went back and watched all the games,” Stevenson said via the Patriots’ website. “I don’t think I really made any wrong reads and things like that. But that was on my mind. I thought I was being a little too patient behind the line. But, no, I think I’m reading it well, reading it like I always do. It’s going to come. Third game of the season, so I think it’s just going to come.”

One of Stevenson’s strong suits has been being elusive and shifty and, he feels, he is not leaning on those attributes enough.

“I just have to get back to making people miss and breaking some more tackles. I didn’t break a couple tackles I think I should’ve run through,” Stevenson said on Wednesday. “First, it’s opportunities just getting into the second level, getting those one-on-ones with the defensive backs and things like that.”

Stevenson will have to be mindful of things like that. Because Elliott is there, and has played well, if he is not.

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