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Rhamondre Stevenson hyped up by teammates following Ty Montgomery’s IR placement

Patriots Rhamondre Stevenson

FOXBOROUGH – The New Patriots are without a clear-cut receiving running back for the time being after Ty Montgomery was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. However, the Patriots believe they have someone perfectly capable of handling receiving and pass-blocking duties in Montgomery’s absence. Rhamondre Stevenson has caught the eyes of his teammates not just as a rusher, but also as a dual-threat running back.

Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers recalled a play Stevenson made in practice shortly after the Patriots drafted him in 2021 that made him draw an immediate comparison to one of New England’s best-ever receiving running backs.

“When he first got here, just in practice, I saw him catch a seam out of the backfield. And that’s like a James White kind of play, you know what I mean?” Meyers said. “But he’ll go out there and give you a dead leg, catch a seam, take one to the crib. He’s a really talented player.”

Despite the impressive play, Stevenson didn’t see much action as a receiver out of the backfield as a rookie. He caught just 14 passes for 123 yards in 12 games as Brandon Bolden mostly assumed the third-down running back duties.

Rhamondre Stevenson saw an opportunity though after Bolden departed for Las Vegas in free agency over the offseason. The running back said multiple times during OTAs and training camp that his main goal over the offseason was to improve his all-around game – mainly focusing on receiving and pass-blocking.

One Patriots captain took notice of Stevenson’s work over the offseason.

“The improvement that I’ve seen from the day that he got here until now is unbelievable. One of the best I’ve seen,” Slater said of Rhamondre Stevenson to the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan. “That’s a credit to him and his work ethic and the way he’s applied the coaching that he’s gotten. It’s been fun to watch.”

Stevenson’s hopes of improving in the passing game come after he had a strong rookie season as a rusher. He ran for 606 yards on 133 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.

Despite several analysts predicting Stevenson to have a strong season, he appears to still be behind Damien Harris on the Patriots’ depth chart at running back. He only had eight carries in Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Dolphins, though Patriots coach Bill Belichick said later that he was looking to constantly rotate players in and out to keep them fresh due to the humid conditions.

Montgomery, who had a knee injury going into Week 1, actually had more snaps in Sunday’s game than Stevenson, playing 20 offensive snaps to Stevenson’s 14. That was likely because Montgomery was the running back for 17 of the 35 passing plays and graded well as both a receiver (he caught three passes for 15 yards, including the Patriots’ lone touchdown) and as a pass-blocker (82.7, per Pro Football Focus).

Even though the Patriots will be without their primary third-down back for at least the next four games, Meyers is confident that Stevenson will thrive in Montgomery’s absence.

“I wouldn’t expect a drop-off,” Meyers said. “I really do have a lot of trust in Rhamondre. All of our backfield, they all are really good players, and they all do a lot of things really well. But especially him, too.”

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones also expressed optimism, saying they have “that will step in and fill [Montgomery’s] role]. Belichick shared a similar confidence, too.

“We feel good about our depth in the backs,” Belichick said. “We have good backs. It’s tough to lose Ty, but we have a couple good players there. Then we have young players behind them. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Rhamondre Stevenson and the rest of the Patriots’ backfield will have a major test ahead of them on Sunday when they face the Steelers. Pittsburgh recorded five turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble recovery) and seven in its season-opening win over Cincinnati.

Bengals running back Joe Mixon struggled on the ground, too. He ran for only 82 yards on 27 carries (three yards per carry). However, he had seven receptions for 63 yards – so maybe that’s a good sign of what’s to come for Stevenson.