After leading one of the most successful backfields during the 2022 season, there was a lot of excitement for what Rhamondre Stevenson would do in his third season with the Patriots. Now the inarguable primary running back on the team, it was expected the Patriots would continue to be a run-first offense, even more so once Ezekiel Elliott was signed in the late summer.
Surely, that was the plan, as both Elliott and Stevenson are great on the ground or in the passing game, creating even more opportunities for success in an offense going through another year of transition. But due to the inconsistent performance of the offensive line, the running backs have had forgettable outings through the first two games.
It was one of the weakest units on the team throughout last season, whether from a talent perspective, improper coaching from an inexperienced leader, or the constant pre-snap penalties a few of the linemen piled up. In short, they were problematic.
Much of the same concerns had trickled into this season, as Bill Belichick chose not to address the line until the fourth round of the draft and didn't prioritize signing top-name free agents either.
The group that was put together didn't offer much hope as the regular season neared despite being better coached by newly hired Adrian Klemm. A combination of injuries and player rotations led to their struggles, forcing the season to begin with a few starters sidelined and backups in their place.
Oddly enough, being down two starters in week one wasn't a problem. The linemen held their own against the Eagles' stout offensive line. It didn't lead to much of an impressive ground attack, but the protection was better than what had been seen in the last preseason game.
A week later, it was a completely different story. With Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange back in the lineup, both of whom didn't participate in offseason practices because of injury, the run game was even worse, as well as the protection of the quarterback.
It's become a growing frustration for fans and the team, mainly when the roster contains two top-of-the-league players in the backfield. Ezekiel Elliott was asked about their poor showing so far this season and didn't hold back on outing the offensive line as the main issue.
"We’ve just got to win the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to come off good on our double teams and just — no other way to put it — just win the line of scrimmage."
Now that Trent Brown is expected back in the lineup against the Jets, hopefully, the protection of Mac Jones won't be an issue, and we will see breakout games for Elliott and Stevenson.
They're the perfect opponent to get the offense together, and a great game from the offensive line can increase morale heading into another tough game against the Cowboys in week four.