Don’t Draw Absolute Conclusions From the Patriots‘ Preseason, Exhibit 1,467.
Over the three games that preceded the 2021 regular season, Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson looked like prime LeGarrette Blount, shedding tackles and disintegrating safeties to the tune of 217 rushing yards, five touchdowns on 30 carries (both of which led the NFL), and 7.2 yards per carry.
When the curtain rose on Week 1, expectations were remarkably high for every rookie on New England’s new-look roster, Stevenson included.
When the curtain fell? Eh.
Mac Jones looked solid and locked into his pursuit of touchdowns, but ultimately, he came up short after being snuffed out several times in the red zone. Christian Barmore didn’t exactly grab the headlines we anticipated he would.
And Stevenson? His first reception of the game ended with the ball on the ground. And it might not have even been his worst snap of the day.
Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson might end up in the dog house after Week 1.
There are many rules in this house, but the loudest and boldest is “DO NOT FUMBLE THE BALL.” Read the sign twice if you’re a running back, for emphasis.
Read the sign five times if you’re a rookie making his NFL debut.
Remember when running backs coach Ivan Fears said mid-preseason that Stevenson needed to work on essentially everything at game speed, but that he’s excited he’s here? Perhaps that was a bit of foreshadowing.
The big-bodied back had real trouble in protection, too, unable to recover from his fumble in time to win the one-on-one battle with his defender, putting Jones in immediate danger. Another massive no-no.
Perhaps the ex-Patriots running back that Stevenson best resembles isn’t Blount, but rather Jonas Gray? An immediate fumble and a missed block that nearly leads to the team’s prize pig getting his legs lopped off by the defense … we’re not saying you’ll never see the rookie again, but isn’t there at least a chance Belichick buries him in Week 2?
This is, of course, after Bill Simmons favorably compared him and Damien Harris to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Harris and Stevenson both boinked game-changing fumbles on Sunday, for what it’s worth. They’re basically the Chubb and Hunt of fumbling.
Every Patriots fan came away from Sunday’s devastating loss largely satisfied; that’s the kind of comfort that comes from 20 years of success. Jones looked competent and in control, and the entire fan base knows that the bounces will eventually even out in their favor.
That doesn’t absolve the team’s Week 1 bumblers from punishment, though. Stevenson might be on a serious snap count until Week 3.
A snap count of zero.