The New England Patriots again are shaking up their backfield.
Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson was inserted back into the lineup for Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. J.J. Taylor, who was up last week, sits out as a healthy scratch.
Stevenson had his best game as a pro against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6 (five carries, 23 yards, touchdown; three catches, 39 yards) but was a healthy scratch for last week’s blowout win over the New York Jets. He’ll complement lead back Damien Harris and third-down back Brandon Bolden.
The Patriots have rotated their young backup ball-carriers this season, never having both Stevenson and Taylor active at the same time. This will be Taylor’s fourth healthy inactive in eight games.
Here’s how that rotation has looked thus far:
Active in Week 1: Stevenson
Week 2: Taylor
Week 3: Taylor
Week 4: Taylor
Week 5: Stevenson
Week 6: Stevenson
Week 7: Taylor
Week 8: Stevenson
Statistically, the Chargers have fielded the NFL’s worst run defense this season, ranking last in rushing yards allowed per game, yards allowed per carry and Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA. The Patriots have averaged 131.3 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks, with Harris surpassing 100 yards himself in each of the last two.
Here is the Patriots’ full inactive list for Sunday:
— Tight end Jonnu Smith is active after exiting last week’s game with a shoulder injury and being limited in all three practices this week. Before his injury last Sunday, Smith was heavily involved, with quarterback Mac Jones targeting him on each of his first three passes and six of his first eight.
With Smith and Hunter Henry both up, second-year pro Devin Asiasi again sits as a healthy scratch. Asiasi has been inactive for every game this season.
— Rookie cornerback Shaun Wade returned to practice Wednesday following a three-week concussion-related absence, but he’s not in the lineup Sunday. The Ohio State product — who was limited all week and listed as questionable — has yet to dress for a regular-season game.
— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower draws back in after missing the Jets game with elbow and ankle injuries. Of the 14 Patriots players who were listed as questionable for this game, only Wade will not suit up.
Safety Devin McCourty, right guard Shaq Mason and defensive tackle Carl Davis all are back in, as well, after injuries knocked them out of last week’s game.
— Special teamer Brandon King was ruled out with a thigh injury and did not make the trip to LA.
— Austin Ekeler, one of the NFL’s top dual-threat running backs, is active for the Chargers after a hip injury kept him out of practice Thursday and Friday.
Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET.