In a recent interview with KTNV's Tina Nguyen, Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson was asked about his offseason. His response has put the rest of the NFL on notice. " It's been hard work." He said. " Probably the best off season I had to this day, so I'm excited for this season."
On the surface, the comments seem like par for the NFL course. Every football player in the league has gone to Instagram or some other social media platform this off season, to talk about how they are " putting in the work". The over-excitement from fans across the country about how their player is performing in shorts and a t-shirt this summer is truly much ado about nothing.
I refuse to fall into that trap, and become another foolish fan, getting a viagra-like reaction to OTA highlights. The reason for my excitement, and the reason that the title of this article is not hyperbole, is not because of how hard Stevenson has worked this off season. It's because his numbers are more exciting than anything said in an interview before training camp starts.
We have to start by looking all the way back to the 2021 draft, where Stevenson was easily the best kept secret in college football. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry in his 2 years at Oklahoma. For comparison, Adrian Peterson averaged 5.4. In Barry Sanders' unbelievable collegiate career at cross state rival Oklahoma State, he averaged 6.8. How did this guy fall to the fourth round?
In his rookie season with the Patriots, Stevenson averaged 4.6 yards per carry. That went up to 5 yards per carry last season. That's an identical number to Nick Chubb, and better than the league's leading rusher, Josh Jacobs (4.8). The increase in rushing production is nearly identical to what we saw in Christian McCaffrey's first two years.
McCaffrey (year 1) 117 carries, for 435 yards
Stevenson (year 1) 133 carries, for 606 yards
McCaffrey (year 2) 219 carries, for 1,098 yards
Stevenson (year 2) 210 carries, for 1,040 yards
When you factor in the reality that Stevenson was targeted 88 times in the passing game last year, and that new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's leading receiver at Alabama in 2022 was running back Jahmyr Gibbs, it's not completely unrealistic to think that Rhamondre's third season could also mirror McCaffrey's breakout third year, when he had nearly 1,400 yards rushing, and 1,000 yards receiving.
This is especially true when you consider that Bill O'Brien is not the only new offensive coach on the New England Patriots. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm helped the Oregon Ducks average more rushing yards in 2022 (216 yards per game) than they had in the last 5 years.
The stars have aligned for the Patriots third year running back to not have a good season, or even a great season, but rather, a historic season. Whether Stevenson was right on the money with his assessment of his offseason, or whether he was exaggerating is irrelevant. The rest of the league, and especially the AFC East, is in for a long year.