The New England Patriots may have sent Mac Jones to the Pro Bowl this season, but this offense is built around running the football and controlling the line of scrimmage. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson gave the Patriots a rushing attack they can lean on for years to come.
Stevenson, who was picked in the fourth round after an unusual college career at Oklahoma, quickly showed that concerns about his lack of college production were not valid. Stevenson rushed for 606 yards and found the end zone five times despite serving as Harris’ backup.
Still, with Harris scoring 15 times on the ground this season, he will likely end up earning a nice contract extension that helps cement him as part of New England’s offensive core … or so we think. Stevenson may never truly assume the starting role in New England.
However, given his unique combination of size, burst, and vision in the open field, Harris might not be able to sit back and assume that the RB1 job will be handed to him on a silver platter. Stevenson is a rock-solid back with endless potential, and that could help Bill Belichick decide to up his workload. Could it also save the team save money on a theoretical Harris deal?
Will Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson beat out Damien Harris?
As good as Harris is, Belichick could be attracted to Stevenson’s physical profile. Stevenson is bigger and stronger than the Alabama product, yet his 4.64 40-yard dash was not that far off when compared to Harris’ 4.57.
Harris may profile as the better athlete, but Stevenson’s short shuttle shows that he has the lateral quickness needed to make people miss.
Stevenson has shown that he can play through contact, as his rushing yards after contact per carry average is right up there with names like Nick Chubb and Jonathan Taylor. While he has a while to go to reach those lofty heights, the fact Stevenson was this dynamic as a rookie despite a somewhat limited passing game bodes well for the future.
Stevenson might not always run like a 230-pound back, but Belichick and the now-retired Ivan Fears helped him morph into a one-cut power back in the Corey Dillon and LeGarrette Blount mold as the season progressed. Stevenson needs to stay on that developmental path if he wants to overtake Harris.
No matter which of the two backs ends up as the starter, New England has the position locked down for the next few years. Be it the big play dynamo in Harris or the bulldozer in Stevenson, Jones has plenty of support lining up behind him in the backfield.