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Rhamondre Stevenson’s pass protection brings back memories of Patriots legend James White

Related: Patriots running back Ty Montgomery to miss rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery

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NFL: NOV 20 Jets at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2021 draft class has had its ups and downs in 2022, but one of its members has been a steady presence on the team: running back Rhamondre Stevenson. The fourth-round selection has proven himself one of the Patriots’ most dependable players and as such has taken over a big role within their offensive operation.

Stevenson is now the lead back, both in the running and the passing games. His contributions extend beyond the two core responsibilities associated with those aspects of the game, however, and he has also become a productive pass protector in his second season in the NFL.

In fact, his ability to stand his ground against opposing rushers has drawn some lofty comparisons.

“He’s had a couple of really good plays in pass protection. James White-level plays,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “Seeing things, making adjustments, that kind of thing. He’s been a big help for us in that area of the game and whether it’s been blitz pickup, flare control, catching the ball, all of the above.”

The Patriots’ primary receiving back between 2015 and 2021, White was as reliable a player as any during the franchise’s second dynastic run. However, he announced his retirement this summer — opening the door for somebody else to take over his role.

While it was originally handled by free agency addition Ty Montgomery, a shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 will knock him out for the rest of the season. In turn, Stevenson was asked to take over and he has done so at a high level.

Despite also seeing more snaps as a traditional lead back, the sophomore has handled whatever the team asked of him. Belichick’s praise speaks for itself.

“It means a lot,” Stevenson himself said about his head coach’s words. “Just from where I started from last year, remembering how little I knew and how unproductive I really was in the pass-pro game. Just making those steps, and just learning, and just seeing it translate to the field, it feels good.”

Stevenson was asked to either pass-protect or run block on 79 of his 471 offensive snaps. Per Pro Football Focus, he has surrendered just three quarterback disruptions all season.

His 97.2 percent efficiency as a pass blocker ranks first in the NFL among running backs with more than 40 pass-blocking reps.

“I put in a lot of work, and the people around me they stay on me constantly,” the 24-year-old told reporters on Sunday. “It’s not really that crazy, it’s just, I would say, I’m very grateful the way it is turning out and my hard work and everyone around here just being on me. That showing up on film feels great.”

Pass protection is an under-the-radar part of playing the running back position, but Stevenson has excelled in it so far.

Of course, the same is true for running and catching the football as well. Heading into a pivotal Week 13 matchup with the Buffalo Bills, Stevenson is the Patriots’ leader in rushing attempts and receptions, while his 1,039 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns are tops on the team’s roster as well.