File Rhamondre Stevenson’s first ever NFL game under “learning experience.” The fourth-round rookie was on the field for five snaps during the New England Patriots’ opening week loss to the Miami Dolphins, touching the ball twice for 11 yards but also losing a fumble.
The next three games, Stevenson did not make the game-day roster. When he returned in Week 5 against the Houston Texans, he gained only 23 yards on 11 carries. The time, it seemed, was not yet ripe for the Oklahoma product to make a big impact for the Patriots.
Fast forward to mid-December and Stevenson now plays an integral role in the New England offense.
He has appeared in six straight games and established himself as the number two early-down back alongside Damien Harris. In this role, Stevenson now has touched the ball 112 times on the year: he has received 100 carries for 429 yards and three touchdowns, and has also added 12 receptions for an additional 117 yards.
He also left a positive impression on his head coach.
“I’ve been impressed by Rhamondre’s growth,” Bill Belichick said during a press conference on Thursday. “He’s very coachable. When you ask him to do something, he really tries hard to do it the way that you want him to do it. He’s improved greatly in every area of the game. He’s a player that has gained a lot of trust and confidence from his teammates, certainly from the coaching staff, really in every area.
“Running game, the passing game, ball security, blitz pick-up, run reads, run techniques, so forth, using the blockers and understanding the blocking schemes. He just gets better every day he goes out on the field.”
When Stevenson arrived in New England as the 140th overall selection in this year’s draft, he joined a crowded backfield. However, he made the most out of his opportunities in training camp and apparently gave the team confidence to give him a bigger role heading into his first regular season.
In fact, the Patriots even went so far as to move on from veteran back Sony Michel; the former first-round draft pick was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in late August. With Michel out of the equation, Stevenson earned some early playing time in his career.
His fumble against the Dolphins might have had the power to change his trajectory, but Stevenson has bounced back strong. Now, he is a key member of a group also featuring Damien Harris and receiving back Brandon Bolden.
“He’s been great to work with and has really shown a lot of improvement and consistency in his daily routine,” said Belichick. “Being out on the field, he just continues to get better, because he is out there practicing every day and trying to take the instruction and coaching that Ivan [Fears] and Vinnie [Sunseri] and Josh [McDaniels] are giving him.
“I think anybody on the team would tell you that he’s improved tremendously from where he was, let’s call it in July, to where he is now. We see it on defense, we see it on offense. He’s just one of those players that’s just gotten a lot better — and he’s pretty good to start with — in terms of adjusting his skills and his game to the team that he’s on and what we’ve asked him to do.”
Stevenson himself is apparently also feeling good about his development. Echoing Belichick’s remarks, the young running back explained how his holistic approach has helped him become a better player.
“I feel like I’m progressing in every area possible,” he told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. “I’m focusing on everything. I’m not really putting, like, all my effort into one thing. I’m just working on my whole game, and just trying to get better.”
So far, Stevenson has done just that.