FOXBORO, Mass. — Want to see Bill Belichick’s eyes light up? Ask him about Rhamondre Stevenson.
The New England Patriots head coach typically is stingy on effusive praise, both in the media and in the meeting rooms, but he’s jumped at every opportunity this season to rave about his second-year running back. He’s called Stevenson “tremendous” and “really impressive,” said he has “as much confidence (in him) as you could possibly have.”
“I’m so glad we have him,” Belichick said after Stevenson rushed for a career-high 161 yards in a Week 5 win over the Detroit Lions. Later in that same news conference, Belichick said he “love(s)” the elusive Oklahoma product.
Stevenson hasn’t heard that particular compliment from his head coach. But the feeling is mutual.
“I feel like there’s that chemistry between us,” Stevenson said Thursday ahead of the Patriots’ Week 9 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. “He knows I’m going to come in here and work hard, and I think he just respects that. And I respect him. He’s a great coach, Hall of Fame coach.
“And, yeah, I love him, too.”
Stevenson’s plaudits have been well-deserved. After serving as the 1B to Damien Harris’ 1A during the second half of his rookie season, he’s emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous dual-threat backs as an NFL sophomore. Eight games in, Stevenson is one of just two NFL players with 500-plus rushing yards and 200-plus receiving yards this season. The other? Christian McCaffrey.
In last week’s win over the New York Jets, Stevenson tallied 143 yards from scrimmage, splitting those almost equally between rushing (71) and receiving (72). Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne compared him to James White after that game, and Stevenson said White’s guidance has been “instrumental” in his growth as a pass-catcher.
With Harris missing the last two Patriots practices with an illness and rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris still not looking ready for legitimate offensive roles, Stevenson can expect another heavy workload when New England hosts Indianapolis this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.