New England Patriots

New Patriots OC Alex Van Pelt emphasizes importance of strong run game

Van Pelt's offenses in Cleveland had a lot of success running the football.

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The New England Patriots have a lot of issues to fix on offense heading into the 2024 NFL season, and one of them is getting the rushing attack firing on all cylinders again.

After ranking 12th in rushing yards per attempt in 2021, the Patriots finished 21st in 2022 and 25th in 2023. Establishing a strong run game sounds like one of the priorities of newly hired offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.

"I think running the football in this league wins games, wins championships," Van Pelt said in a video posted to the Patriots' X account. "We have to do that late in the season."

Van Pelt was hired by the Patriots earlier this month after the departure of former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien. He was the OC in Cleveland from 2020 through 2023.

During his tenure as offensive coordinator for the Browns, they ranked 5th in rush yards per attempt in 2020, T-1st in 2021 and 11th in 2022. Cleveland's rushing attack struggled last season, primarily due to star running back Nick Chubb suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2. Van Pelt's offense still was good enough to help the Browns win 11 games and clinch a playoff berth.

The Patriots should be able to run the football effectively with Rhamondre Stevenson as the lead running back in 2024, assuming he's healthy. The 2021 fourth-round draft pick ran for 619 yards (4.0 per carry) with four touchdowns in 12 games last season, while also catching 38 passes for 238 receiving yards. Stevenson missed the last five games due to injury. He's entering the final year of his contract in 2024, so he has all the motivation needed for a productive campaign.

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Van Pelt also talked about his role as offensive coordinator and how he can help maximize the talent of his players.

"I think a good coordinator does what's best for his players," Van Pelt said. "I think a lot of guys have schemes they understand and have familiarity with as coordinators, but if it doesn't fit the player, then how good is the scheme really?

"A good coordinator will often take the strengths of the players that he has, play to their strengths, while at the same time being able to protect them from their weaknesses."

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