close
close
Sport

Patriots RB depth chart: Will Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson lead New England’s backfield?

Few NFL teams squeezed more power from their frenzied offense in 2021 than the Patriots.

New England had the eighth-highest run play percentage among NFL teams (45.73) and finished the season with the eighth-highest rushing yards (2,151). The Patriots also totaled 24 rushing touchdowns, good for second-highest in the league behind only the Eagles.

That strong running game helped New England become a playoff team in 2021 and allowed the team to bring rookie-starting quarterback Mac Jones into NFL action. The Patriots will likely look to repeat their on-the-ground success in the 2022 season, and they have the backfield weapons to make it happen.

MORE: Why the Patriots won’t name offensive coordinator for 2022

Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will form an impressive 1-2 shot as the Pats look to continue their success with the ball. The only question is: who will lead the crew?

But Harris and Stevenson won’t be the only defenders carrying the ball. New England has historically taken a backfield-by-committee approach, issuing two 2022 draft picks to running backs and will likely seek to employ a pass-catching specialist on third downs.

Below is a breakdown of the Patriots’ first unofficial running back depth chart for the 2022 preseason. This chart was posted on the team’s official website and is subject to change prior to the start of the 2022 NFL regular season.

IYER: Where Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are among the NFL’s top RBs

Patriots RB depth chart

1. Damien Harris

Harris had a mini breakout for the Patriots during the 2021 NFL season. He served as the team’s top runner, playing 407 position-high snaps and recording 202 of the team’s 489 carries. Harris rushed for 929 yards and 15 touchdowns, the latter tied for second-highest in the NFL with James Conner and only behind Jonathan Taylor.

Read  Sporting KC Hosts Seattle Sounders on Saturday

His career numbers lead many to believe that Harris is the safe No. 1 for the Patriots. He’s 25 and has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over his three-year career. But he’s only caught 23 passes, so New England may need to rotate him to get better on-field pass-catching backs in obvious passing situations.

2. Rhamondre Stevenson

Stevenson poses the biggest threat to oust Harris from the starting role. Harris, a sophomore from Oklahoma, has gained 606 yards and five touchdowns on 133 carries as a rookie.

Belichick’s confidence in Stevenson was remarkable; The longtime coach has been reluctant to give touches to rookie running backs for the past decade. Since 2011, only Sony Michel, a first-round pick, has recorded more touches among Patriots rookie running backs than Stevenson.

Year player touches
2018 SonyMichel 216
2021 Rhamondre Stevenson 147
2011 Damien Harris 90
2011 Shane Veren fifteen
2014 Jacob Weiss 14
2019 Damien Harris 4

Being on Belichick’s good side will help Stevenson (6-0, 227 pounds) earn playing time, and so will his receiving ability. He’s not a top pass catcher, but he caught 14 of 18 targets for 123 yards in his freshman season. He’s been working on his reception skills in the offseason, so if he can stay on the field for more third downs, he could potentially move above Harris on the depth chart.

James-White-100719-GETTY-FTR

3.James White

White is on the PUP list as he is recovering from a hip injury sustained during the Patriots’ Week 3 game against the Saints last season. That means there’s no guarantee White will be on the Patriots’ 53-man roster for the Patriots’ season opener against the Dolphins. If he remains on the PUP list, he must sit out at least the first six weeks of the season.

Read  State should harness our sports tourism potential

But if White (5-10, 205lbs) can play in 2022, he should resume his role as the team’s best pass catcher. He’s recorded at least 40 receptions in six of his eight pro seasons, and in the two seasons that he didn’t reach that number, he’s only appeared in three competitions.

So White will be a threat to eat up Harris and Stevenson’s third down workload if he’s sane. But he won’t be that dangerous between duels. He has averaged 3.36 carries per game for a mediocre 4.0 yards per attempt during his career.

4. Ty Montgomery

The Patriots signed Montgomery in the 2022 NFL offseason. He will offer veteran insurance behind White. Montgomery, a Packers third-round pick in 2015, has played as both receiver and running back in the NFL and is considered a similar hybrid weapon for the Patriots.

Montgomery (6-0, 216 pounds) has averaged a solid 4.6 yards per carry and averaged 30 catches, 241 yards and a touchdown per 17 games played during his career. His stats aren’t earth-shattering, but he should do enough to replace White while also being a valuable returnee for special teams.

MORE: What a former Patriot did to avoid Bill Belichick’s wrath after oversleeping

5. Pierre Stark Jr.

Strong is another candidate to replace White and he has significantly more potential than 29-year-old Montgomery. The Patriots’ 2022 fourth-round pick played at FCS South Dakota State, where he recorded three 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a senior and logged 1,673 yards and 18 touchdowns on 240 carries.

Strong (5-11, 205 pounds) has steadily improved as a receiver — he recorded 63 catches for 600 yards and three touchdowns in college — and New England is focused on developing those skills. Strong has worked in both the backfield and the slot during training camp.

Read  Check Out the Hat Rack of SUVs: 2022 Lexus LX600 F Sport Review

It can be difficult for Strong to rack up a lot of touches as a rookie, as Belichick is unwilling to trust first-year backs. Still, as long as white is sidelined, there is a way to touch.

Kevin-Harris-081022-GETTY-FTR

6.Kevin Harris

Strong wasn’t the only running back the Patriots drafted in 2022. They spent a sixth-round pick with Harris playing three seasons in South Carolina. Harris had just 660 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 152 carries in 2021, but in a breakout campaign in 2020 he rushed for 1,138 yards and 12 touchdowns on 185 carries.

Harris is well built at 5-10, 220 pounds and could be an option between tackles going forward. But at this point he’s fighting for a roster spot more than playing time, so he probably won’t be making much noise in 2022.

7.JJTaylor

Taylor has been with the Patriots for the past two years after leaving Arizona. As a rookie, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 23 kills before averaging a paltry 1.9 yards on 19 carries last year. He looks like a potential practice squad.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button