Patriots rookie running backs shine in win over Cardinals
With injuries to the New England Patriots starting running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, rookie running backs Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr stepped up. T
hey shined in the Patriots’ Week 14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Damien Harris was inactive in Week 14 with a thigh injury, suffered in Week 12, which meant that fellow running back Stevenson was expected to carry the workload. Stevenson has been the Patriots best running back all season, recording 742 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, 385 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown.
In the Week 14 game against the Cardinals, Stevenson left the game in the first quarter after suffering an ankle injury. Stevenson was questionable to return and did so briefly before exiting again and being downgraded to out.
Patriots rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. show out
Due to the Harris and Stevenson injuries, rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. were forced into the starting roles, and they did not disappoint.
Pierre Strong Jr. was drafted in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft. The game against the Cardinals was just the second game he has played this season. He saw his first NFL action in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns, where he had one rushing attempt for 5 yards.
Strong had five rushing attempts for 70 yards in Week 14. He scored his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard run.
Speaking after the game on what it meant for him to get in the endzone, Strong stated:
“It was unbelievable. I was like, wow, I really got in, but at the end of the day, that’s just football, so I have to try to get better everyday.”
The Patriots drafted Kevin Harris in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft. Like Strong, he saw his first NFL action in Week 6 against the Browns, where he had three rushing attempts for 5 yards. He also had one rushing attempt against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 for -1 yards.
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In Week 14, Harris had eight rushing attempts for 26 yards. He scored his first NFL touchdown in the second quarter on a 14-yard run.
After the game, Strong spoke on what it meant to share a breakout performance with Harris:
“It means the world for us to both make our first career touchdowns. We have to thank the O-line. We are going to continue to praise each other and just come out and make plays when our number is called.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also spoke on the rookies’ performances:
“Yeah. It was great. They got an opportunity and made some big plays. We’ll see if they can sustain it, show up week after week and people will start looking for them.”