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With his ‘trial run’ over, Rhamondre Stevenson is eying a bigger role in the Patriots offense

Related: Patriots training camp notebook: Matt Patricia appears to be the play-calling favorite

NFL: JUN 08 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Quarterback Mac Jones stole the headlines but he was far from the only member of the New England Patriots’ 2021 rookie class to turn into a contributor right away. Defensive lineman Christian Barmore did as well, as did fourth-round running back Rhamondre Stevenson.

And just like Jones and Barmore, Stevenson too is in line to make the famous sophomore leap. After all, the training wheels are now off as he told reporters following Thursday’s training camp practice.

“I would say last year was kind of like a trial run,” he said. “I needed it. I know exactly what they expect of me and how I need to come in in shape and what I need to get done.”

Stevenson arrived in New England as the 120th overall selection in last year’s draft, and the Oklahoma product immediately made his presence felt in training camp and preseason. Accordingly, he entered the regular season as the number two early-down option behind Damien Harris.

Even though he experienced some rookie growing pains such as a lost fumble on just his second touch in the season opener, the arrow was pointing in the right direction throughout 2021. Stevenson eventually ended up appearing in 13 games, gaining a combined 789 yards from scrimmage and scoring five touchdowns.

Now in Year 2, his goal is to carve out an even bigger role within the New England offense. One way to do so is by increasing his value in the passing game after he caught just 14 throws as a rookie for a total of 123 yards.

“I feel a lot more confident and comfortable running routes, catching passes out of the backfield,” Stevenson said.

He added that he was trying to get better at every facet of being a receiving back.

“Understanding the third down concepts and just blitz pickup,” he said. “Just the overall thing to be honest with you — running routes, catching the ball, pass protection, just learning the whole third down system.”

What should help him do that is his added experience in the system as well as a physical transformation he underwent since last year. Whereas he reported to training camp at 232 pounds during his rookie campaign, he has now dropped down to 225 and added some “better weight.”

“I think I got a lot more lean, and I just feel better overall,” Stevenson said. “I’m in shape. I feel like I can run a lot more. I just feel better overall. I can’t really describe it, I just feel better.”

How was he able to get there?

“It’s a lot that I did differently,” the 24-year-old said. “I just listened to my nutritionist, my trainers, and stuck to the plan.”