Patriots backfield in motion could reveal hidden gem

Rhamondre Stevenson’s season might be over. But for two young running backs, their season could be just beginning.
New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris (36)
New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris (36) / Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Next man up.

No one feels sorry for the New England Patriots, and the Patriots know this. In a disappointing season that seemingly only gets worse, the latest instance of the football gods kicking New England while they’re down is Rhamondre Stevenson reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain in the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.

But why bring Stevenson back? The Patriots won’t make the playoffs this season, so it may be best to sit Stevenson the rest of the way.

That leaves the Patriots with Ezekiel Elliott and Ty Montgomery as the remaining running backs on the roster unless head coach Bill Belichick promotes an unused back a chance. The way this season has been going, it’s a wonder why Belichick hadn’t done so for a few games already.

With pride the only thing to play for (players don’t play for draft position) and with little to lose, now is the ideal time to get these running backs on the field and see if they can take advantage of the opportunity and prove to be contributors.

Rhamondre Stevenson’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for the New England Patriots if they discover another productive running back

The first back that should get his name called is JaMycal Hasty. The 5-8" 205-pound running back was claimed by the Patriots after the Jacksonville Jaguars waived Hasty earlier this season.

Hasty has been a productive third down back in previous stops in his career. With New England’s offensive struggles, the Patriots could use Hasty’s explosiveness out of the backfield. Whether the scat back bursts through the line or takes a Bailey Zappe dump-off and turns nothing into a big gain, the offense can use a game-changer that can move the chains.

If Belichick opts to play it safe, he can turn to Kevin Harris for a more ball control approach. Harris is a little-used second-year back out of South Carolina. A compact 5-10 225, Harris stands out as an undersized power back with very good contact balance.

Harris won’t run past many defenders, but arm tackles barely slow him down. If Belichick wants to recreate a 1-2 punch with Elliott and whoever, Harris is the choice.

Harris’ ball security is the one concern, as he has a bad habit of putting the ball on the ground. If Harris does so again, it’s almost guaranteed Belichick will bench the former Gamecock. But if Harris can hold on to the ball, he would be the player best suited to replace Stevenson as a between-the-tackles runner.

Ideally, Both Hasty and Harris will get turns proving themselves because the Patriots, thin in the backfield all season long, need to know what they have on the roster to determine if they need to add fresh legs via the draft.

Elliott has been solid production-wise and for his pass protection, but on the field, he’s a plodder. He doesn’t have much explosion left in his seventh season. And Elliott will be a free agent after the season.

New England needs more speed and quickness at the skill positions. That includes at running back.

Whether the Patriots will be looking for a third down back or someone to share the load with Stevenson, there will be plenty of prospects to choose from come April.

But to determine if the Patriots need to shop for a running back in the spring, they need to find out what they have on the self this winter. Hasty and Harris should have a chance to make a case for a role now and in the future.