FOXBORO, Mass. — J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson received some “big-brotherly advice” from veteran position mate Brandon Bolden after both struggled with ball security early this season.
Bolden, the elder statesman of the New England Patriots’ running back room, said he’s delivered pep talks to Stevenson and Taylor, who are in their first and second NFL seasons, respectively.
Stevenson lost a fumble in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Taylor did the same against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night. New England went on to lose both games.
Bolden’s message to the young duo?
“Blank happens,” the 31-year-old said Wednesday. “This is a long season. This is not going to be your last year because of this one time you made a mistake. Keep your head up and just remember everything that you’ve been taught and everything the coaches have been teaching you. Head up. Let this one hurt. Remember how it hurt. Put your head down and get to work again. Everything will work out on its own.”
This has been a rough opening month for Stevenson and Taylor, both of whom excelled in the preseason.
Stevenson, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has not played since coughing up the ball and blowing a blitz pickup in Week 1, sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. Taylor played in each of those three games but has been ineffective, rushing four times for 5 yards and catching two passes for 3 yards in 19 total offensive snaps.
Taylor’s fumble was especially costly, as it spoiled a Patriots drive that had begun on the Buccaneers’ 38-yard line. After New England missed a last-minute 56-yard field goal to lose 19-17, multiple players said turnovers have been the team’s biggest offensive problem. (The Patriots have lost the turnover battle in all three of their losses this season.)
It’s unclear whether Taylor’s miscue will trigger a change in the Patriots’ backfield, with Stevenson potentially slotting back into the gameday roster for Sunday’s Week 5 matchup with the Houston Texans.
“We’ll see how that goes, but both of them are very strong ball-carriers,” said Bolden, who’s seen a sharp uptick in offensive snaps following James White’s season-ending hip injury. “They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. (I give them) just big-brotherly advice. The best I can give them at this point. I can’t do it for them. That’s something they’ve got to do for themselves. And I think they’re ready to do so.”
The Patriots’ run game was nearly nonexistent against Tampa Bay, with New England managing just -1 yards on eight carries. Lead back Damien Harris — whose late fumble helped doom the Patriots against Miami — rushed four times for -4 yards.
Houston’s porous run defense should present an ideal bounce-back opportunity, but the Patriots could be without multiple starting offensive linemen for this week’s contest.