PHILADELPHIA — Rhamondre Stevenson’s 91-yard touchdown run last Thursday set off a raucous celebration on the New England Patriots’ sideline.
Cam Newton, Damien Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne had played their final snaps hours earlier, but when Stevenson raced down the sideline, leaving multiple Washington Football Team defenders in his wake, all six rushed toward the end zone to congratulate the rookie running back.
As much as the run itself, that reaction gave Stevenson a jolt of confidence as he prepares for his first NFL season.
“It just made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident just because my teammates believed in me and they all were proud of me,” the fourth-round draft pick said after Tuesday’s joint practice with the Eagles. “It was just a great feeling.”
Stevenson was the first Patriots running back to rush for 100 yards in a preseason game since LeGarrette Blount in 2013. And his 91-yard dash — which the Oklahoma product said he’ll remember “for the rest of (his) life” — wasn’t his only notable contribution.
On his third carry, Stevenson ran through one tackle and sidestepped another before being dragged down by three defenders for a 9-yard gain. A few plays later, he bulldozed WFT linebacker David Mayo and Patriots tackle Justin Herron to pick up a first down on third-and-1. He capped that drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
“I got more, I would say, comfortable,” Stevenson said. “I got my first game under my belt, so I definitely got a little bit more confidence. And this joint practice, it was great going against the Eagles. It was great players, great competition. I think we got a lot better this week.”
Stevenson also has seen an uptick in opportunities since the Patriots touched down in Philadelphia. After working almost exclusively with the Brian Hoyer-led scout team during the first three weeks of training camp, the young back rotated in with starting quarterback candidates Cam Newton and Mac Jones in both joint practices.
Stevenson caught one pass and took four handoffs from Newton in 11-on-11 drills across the two sessions. He took at least four handoffs from Jones, a fellow 2021 draftee.
All six members of the Patriots’ deep running back stable — Harris, White, Michel, Stevenson, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor — logged reps with the first-team offense this week.
“It’s a great amount of competition,” Stevenson said. “Every one of those backs, they could run, they could block, they could catch. It’s a competition more than I have ever been in in my life. It’s a fun moment, though. We’re all getting better. Iron sharpens iron, and I really, truly believe that.”
As a fourth-round pick, Stevenson is in no danger of losing his roster spot, but he’ll need to impress this summer to bypass New England’s traditional rookie redshirt. Patriots running backs often play sparingly during their rookie season (see: Harris, White, Shane Vereen) before taking on larger roles as NFL sophomores.
“There’s still a lot more work to do,” Stevenson said. “But I’m feeling more comfortable, more confident, playing faster.”