The 2022 NFL season was a disappointing one for the New England Patriots as they finished with a 8-9 record and did not qualify for the AFC playoffs.
That said, there were a few positives that emerged over 17 games, and one of them was the improvement seen from second-year running back Rhamondre Stevenson. He led the team with 1,040 yards (5.0 per carry) and five touchdowns on the ground, while also tallying a team-leading 69 receptions for 421 yards and one receiving score.
The Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry is live at Super Bowl LVII in Phoenix this week as the football world previews Sunday's matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
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Former Patriots and Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount, who won the Lombardi Trophy with both teams, sat down with Perry for an interview Tuesday. One of the topics discussed was Stevenson.
"I like (Stevenson) a lot. He's one of my favorite young running backs," Blount explained. "A couple of years in the league now, starting to get his feet a little bit, but he's still young, still got some things to fix and work on. But he has tremendous upside, a great ceiling. The sky's the limit for him. He's just got to make sure he takes care of his body. If you're in New England, if you're a big running back, you're gonna run the ball a lot, especially when it's raining outside or if it's freezing cold outside. You're gonna always get the ball up there.
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"I can't say enough about him -- he's a big back that people underestimate his speed and they really underestimate his catching ability. I don't think people really respect how well he can catch the football, and that's an advantage for him being the size that he is."
How important is it for Stevenson that the Patriots find a reliable third-down back -- a James White-type player -- to lessen some of his workload?
"It is very critical because you're going to get into games where, maybe your third-down back needs to take the lead. Maybe he's smaller, maybe he's in better shape, whatever the case may be," Blount said. "Rhamondre, being a physical back, he seems like he's in great shape, but at the end of the day, being that size and going out there and running a go-route and then running a hitch route -- if the team is behind and we have to get in a two-minute offense, he's not the ideal guy that you want in there. You want a Shane (Vereen), you want Dion (Lewis), you want James White, you want those kinds of guys."
One instance where having a third-down back saved the Patriots' season was in Super Bowl LI versus the Atlanta Falcons. White tallied 139 total yards and three total touchdowns as New England erased a 28-3 deficit to win 34-28 in overtime.
"As you could see in that Atlanta game, my fumble, Tom Brady's pick-6, the back that got in there and got it done was James White," Blount said. "I don't know how many catches (he had), but those guys are important. Everybody doesn't think they need them until you need them. You always need one of these guys. So I think that is vital to an offense's success to have a guy who can be able to catch the football and protect the quarterback out of the backfield."
Also in this episode: Perry talked to Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni about the team's offseason acquisition of star wide receiver A.J. Brown.