New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson was already in line for an increased role after an impressive closing stretch to his rookie season. The retirement of pass-catching back James White might have escalated Stevenson's touches in 2022.
On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted Stevenson's improved pass-catching skills during training camp.
"Rhamondre's done a really good job improving his pass game skills, starting with blitz pickup and protection," Bill Belichick said via Sophie Weller of Mass Live. "Route running -- he's got good hands, catching the ball's never really been an issue. It's setting up defenders, recognizing coverages, when to sit down, when to break, depending on what the rest of the pattern is, how to maximize the distribution on the pattern."
Stevenson caught 14 of 18 passes as a rookie for 123 yards. Belichick said the back gaining experience would help him understand his role coming out of the backfield.
"The back's always kind of the last person in the pattern for flare control," Belichick said. "So, whatever the rest of the players are running, the back is generally responsible for filling in -- being in the right spot so the quarterback has an outlet. ... That comes a lot with experience."
Stevenson is projected to split carries with Damien Harris this season. With the Pats now replacing White's pass-catching production, Stevenson could see more third-down snaps. Ty Montgomery, an RB/WR, and rookie Pierre Strong are also candidates to take some of the pass-down reps.
One key will be Stevenson's improved blocking. Like most rookies, picking up blitzes was a learning process, but he improved in that area down the stretch and into camp this season.
"But he's done a good job of, again, gaining experience and all that," Belichick said. "He's way better than he was last year and he understands that's an important part of his game. It's not just carrying the ball, it's all things that go with the passing game. So, he's done a great job."
If Stevenson proves he can be a weapon in both the run and pass, he could see a significant increase in reps in a Patriots backfield known for its timeshares.
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