Next in a series about New England Patriots positional reviews in 2023, it’s time to look at the running backs to ascertain the top two positives on the roster.
After allowing their second-best back, Damian Harris to leave in free agency to Buffalo, no less, the Patriots have been left thin at running back for the 2023 offseason.
There is still time to augment the situation before training camp with some thought-provoking free agents available. These include Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliot, and Leonard Fournette. Any of these would be a solid addition if the price is right.
That notwithstanding, let’s take a look at the current pre-training camp situation and give it a grade.
New England Patriots have a great running back on the roster
No surprise here that the Patriots have a top running back on the team in third-year pro, Rhamondre Stevenson. He’s a huge positive and with his ability to catch the ball from the backfield, could even count as two.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2021, Stevenson has exceeded expectations for the New England Patriots. Stevenson is a big back who can do everything. He can run, catch it, and block. He’s an all-around top back and few NFL teams wouldn’t be better off having him on their rosters.
Stevenson was good as a rookie in 2021 but took his game to a whole new level in 2022. Last season he amassed 1006 yards with 5 TDs on the ground, up from 606 yards and also five TDs in 2021. Additionally, he racked up a James-White-like 69 receptions for 421 yards and another TD.
That’s a breakout season in anyone’s view. He may just continue to get better if he has a little help from his friends on the offensive line. That’s a whole other story, however, that will be perused subsequently.
Suffice it to say that Stevenson is one of the bright spots not only at running back but on the entire team. And he has leadership potential, as well. He’s a top-five player on the New England Patriots roster.
New England Patriots lack depth at running back
After Stevenson, the New England Patriots situation at running back gets murky. They signed former 100-yard rusher James Robinson in the offseason. He didn’t even last until summer camp. He was released presumably due to medical concerns.
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This leaves the team very thin at the backup running back spot. They have two second-year players, Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. at present to take up the slack from losing Harris.
Whether they can or not is anyone’s guess. Strong had a mere 100 yards on the ground with one TD. Harris was even worse with only 52 yards and one touchdown.
Absent the proverbial second-year jump that Bill Belichick expects from his players, it’s fair to say that there’s little behind Stevenson on the roster and an injury to him could be catastrophic.
Thus, the second positive is presumptive. It will be the NFL free agent back they must sign to augment this position. With this in mind, the grade for the running backs is a B/B-, due solely to the presence of Stevenson on the roster.
The running back room screams for an addition prior to camp. One with a real NFL pedigree would be preferable. We’ll see if the team is astute enough to get that done. If not, they are playing with fire.