Patriots: 3 players we’re watching closely in preseason opener

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (53) Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots are finally ready to turn the page on what was a very disappointing 2020 season, and Bill Belichick is geared up to get back to the playoffs following a nightmarish campaign without Tom Brady.

The Patriots not only dominated free agency by hoovering up plenty of the top candidates, but they added some contributors that will improve the roster after some substandard players ate up tons of snaps last year. With the preseason drawing near, the new-look Pats will finally be unveiled.

The preseason won’t be the be-all, end-all with regards to the team’s success in the regular season, but it will be a good opportunity for New England to evaluate how their team is looking before they try to knock Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills off from their perch atop the division.

A few Patriots players will be under a microscope in their first preseason game against the Washington Football Team, and they could set themselves up for success with a strong showing in these exhibitions.

3 Patriots players to watch in the first preseason game.

3. RB Rhamondre Stevenson

Stevenson was drafted in the fourth round out of Oklahoma, as a coach in Belichick that loves to lean on oversized one-cut running backs like Corey Dillon or LeGarrette Blount is likely eyeing the chance to develop the former Sooner into a short-yardage back. However, things haven’t started off very well for him.

Running backs coach Ivan Fears, who was taking every opportunity to speak highly of undrafted RB JJ Taylor last year, mentioned that the only positive he has taken away from Stevenson’s performance so far is that “he’s here.” What does he need to work on? Per Fears, “everything.” Yikes.

Will Rhamondre Stevenson get some snaps as a rookie?

Stevenson might be able to change his coach’s mind when the bright lights are turned on. His time at Oklahoma showed he was capable of powering through smaller defensive backs and possesed enough straight-line speed to break off big runs. On the field, Stevenson’s style might pop more than it does in practice.

Damien Harris is entrenched as the starter, and James White will get his touches in his pass-catching role, but Stevenson shouldn’t be completely discarded as a rookie despite the presence of Taylor and Sony Michel. He’s one strong preseason away from turning into a reliable backup.