FOXBORO, Mass. — In 2021, Rhamondre Stevenson confidently and successfully avoided the dreaded “rookie wall.” He looked fresher at the end of the campaign than he did at the beginning.
But this season’s been a different story for the young Patriots star. Stevenson has emerged as one of the NFL’s best all-around running backs — but at a cost.
The sophomore back ranks among the league leaders with 258 total touches and his snap-count usage has risen from 34% in 2021 to 68% in 2022. Part of that is because Damien Harris has missed six games due to injuries, but Stevenson also can blame himself for being so good that New England often can’t afford to take him off of the field.
Signs of wear and tear are showing. Stevenson’s been limited in practice the last few weeks due to an ankle injury and he’s coming off his worst game of the season. The 2021 fourth-round pick, who leads the Patriots in both rushing attempts and targets, fumbled twice in last Saturday’s home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and has a drop in three of his last five games.
“I’d say I’m feeling it,” Stevenson said after Thursday’s practice in Foxboro. “I feel what everyone talks about with the NFL season. But I feel like I’m doing a good job taking care of my body, and I’m just trying to stay proactive more than anything. But yeah, I’m feeling the season, for sure.”
With two games left on the schedule and New England fighting for a playoff spot, things aren’t going to get any easier for Stevenson.
“It’s a mental thing, I believe. It’s a long season,” he said. “There’s some big guys tackling you. It’s physical every week. Just staying on top of it. That’s the best you can do about it.”
If Stevenson goes down, he’ll go down swinging. That much was obvious when he rushed for 172 yards — before lateralling the game away — against the Las Vegas Raiders less than a week after suffering his ankle injury.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever tapped (out) since I’ve been in the league so far. But, I’ll be tired out there, to be honest. I just like to fight through it. Just next play, hope my team needs me on the next play, so I’m prepared to be there for them.”
Stevenson will look to grind out another strong performance this Sunday when New England hosts the Miami Dolphins in a must-win game.