Many New England Patriots assistant coaches hesitate to heap too much praise on their players. Not Ivan Fears.
The Patriots’ veteran running backs coach clearly loves the ball-carriers he works with and isn’t afraid to spell it out to the media.
Unprompted on Thursday, Fears compared fourth-round pick Rhamondre Stevenson to former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount.
“We’ll let (Stevenson) determine where he fits in,” Fears said Thursday via video conference call. “The thing that we like about the kid, he’s a big kid. He’s got great feet. Great athletic ability. He seems to have, seems to be a smart player. We’ll find out if he can get it all learned, get it all done. If he can make the transition from what he was doing at Oklahoma to here. The guy has got a hell of a future for himself. But he’s gotta get it done. And we’ll see when we get to training camp. Right now, things are going well. The guy is learning, he’s working hard, he’s fighting through a couple nagging things, but he’s working his butt off and we’re excited about that.
“Know who he reminds me of is LeGarrette Blount. That kind of body. That kind of athletic ability. He’s probably a better pass receiver than even LeGarrette was. This kid has got pretty good hands. There are a lot of doors open here. We’ll see what sticks to him.”
Blount was 6-feet, 247 pounds during his playing days but caught just 19 passes in four seasons with the Patriots. Stevenson hauled in 28 passes over his last two college seasons, playing 19 games with the Sooners.
Stevenson enters a crowded Patriots backfield that also features early-down backs Damien Harris and Sony Michel, pass-catcher James White, second-year pro J.J. Taylor, special-teams ace Brandon Bolden and re-signed veteran Tyler Gaffney.
Fears also wasn’t faint in his praise for Taylor, who’s having “a hell of spring” — an observation Fears is so adamant about the longtime Patriots running backs coach repeated it twice.
“He’s going to be an excellent make-you-miss type of back,” Fears said. “Excellent in the open field. He’s got great vision. His run instincts are outstanding. No doubt about it. His hands are good. He can catch the ball. He can run the routes. He’s got all that stuff. When it’s all said and done, he’s gotta get out and do it. He’s gotta do it in practice. He’s gotta do it in preseason games.
“He’s gotta earn the spot. He’s gotta show us he can play. No matter what his size is, he’s gonna have to show us that he can play. And that he can handle all the roles involved in that. From running routes, to running the football, blocking, the whole deal. All that’s going to have to be something he shows us. I think he’s on track.”
Taylor stand 5-foot-6 and weighs just 185 pounds. Stevenson and Taylor have the potential to be a thunder-and-lightning combination for the Patriots in the future.