New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson saw his carries increase from 133 as a rookie in 2021 to 210 last season. Now, with his former co-starter Damien Harris signing with the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills this offseason, the Patriots running backs room is fully Stevenson's, both on the field with likely even more touches coming his way and off the field as the position's top player voice.
"That's what's being asked of me right now," Stevenson said earlier this month, per the Boston Herald. "I'm trying to take that step. It's still early, but I'm trying to take that step to be a leader."
Stevenson started two fewer games (7) than Harris (9) but Stevenson out-touched Harris 279 to 123 as Harris missed six games with hamstring injuries. With the Patriots not drafting a running back in the 2023 draft, Stevenson's involvement, especially in the passing game in new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's offense, will likely skyrocket. His backups include 30-year journeyman Ty Montgomery as well as 2022 fourth-round pick Pierre Strong and 2022 sixth-round pick Kevin Harris.
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Stevenson knows this and is gearing up for high-volume usage entering his third season in the league.
"Just getting in shape again, just getting my wind back," Stevenson said. "Damien's out of here now so I'm kind of the guy, so just trying to make sure I'm ready for the end of the season."
Retired Patriots running back James White, New England's leading receiver (14 catches, 110 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown, and the overtime, game-winning two-yard rushing touchdown) in their historic Super LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, see Stevenson's opportunity as one not seen since New England's reset at the position about a decade ago.
"It almost reminds me of before I got to the Patriots when they had Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen [in the early 2010s], and Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk and others were gone," White said Sunday, via ESPN. "Back then it was like, 'This is your backfield now.' I feel like that's the transition there now."
Stevenson's scrimmage yards total jumped by 732 yards from 729 as a rookie to 1,461 scrimmage yards while going from playing 34.2% of the offensive snaps in 2021 to 66% of the snaps in 2022. If he experienced another such jump in both opportunity and scrimmage yards, Stevenson would become the first player in Patriots history with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season.
"It's not so often as a Patriots running back that you're out there that many snaps," White said. "[Coach] Bill [Belichick] loves that guy, so he just has to capitalize on the opportunity."
The 25-year-old's goal is to experience another similar uptick in performance in 2023 by simply returning to exactly what he did last offseason.
"I'd just say the same thing I was doing, just more consistency," Stevenson said. "Just doing the same thing every day, just taking care of my body and just trying to be proactive... It's just a long season. You just have to mentally prepare for that long season. That's the best thing you can do, just mentally prepare, just know that it's a 17-game season and have to get after it."