FOXBORO, Mass. — With Ty Montgomery landing on injured reserve Tuesday, the New England Patriots may begin using running back Rhamondre Stevenson more in the passing game.
Jakobi Meyers would be A-OK with that.
The veteran wide receiver raved about Stevenson after Wednesday’s Patriots practice, marveling at the second-year pro’s uncommon blend of size and skills.
“He’s a great player,” Meyers said. “A great player. I just feel like he can do so much, especially being that size. I feel like that’s a real rare talent of being big and skilled at the same time. He’s a great player. I feel like he’ll play for a long time.”
Most of Stevenson’s NFL contributions to date have come on handoffs, but Meyers has seen him make plays as a pass-catcher in practice since early in his rookie season. One such play reminded Meyers of Patriots great James White — the player whose role the now-injured Montgomery filled in Week 1.
“When he first got here, just in practice, I saw him catch a seam out of the backfield,” Meyers said. “That’s like a James White kind of play, you know what I mean? But he’ll go out there and give you a dead leg, catch a seam, take one to the crib. He’s a really talented player.”
It’s unclear how the Patriots plan to replace Montgomery, who won’t be eligible to return until Week 6 at the earliest.
They could split his pass-game responsibilities between Damien Harris and Stevenson, both of whom have shown the ability to be capable receivers out of the backfield. They could keep Harris in his usual early-down role and tab Stevenson — who worked this offseason to improve his route-running and earned praise from head coach Bill Belichick for those efforts — as their top option on third downs. Or they could turn to rookie Pierre Strong Jr. or third-year pro J.J. Taylor.
Strong was a healthy scratch against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, and a shoulder injury limited him in Wednesday’s practice. Taylor is on the practice squad.
If Stevenson is the Patriots’ choice, Meyers said he “definitely” has confidence in the Oklahoma product to produce in that role.
“I wouldn’t expect a dropoff,” the wideout said. “I really do have a lot of trust in Rhamondre. All of our backfield — they all are really good players, and they all do a lot of things really well, but especially him, too.”
Belichick didn’t tip his hand when asked about Montgomery’s injury but said the Patriots “feel good about (their) depth in the backs.”
The 0-1 Patriots are preparing to visit the 1-0 Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.