FOXBORO — The success and maturation of any rookie player cannot be determined after just one season.
Just ask New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He has been acknowledging for years that not every player’s growth works the same way, while opportunities are often only presented over time.
However, evaluating a player in Year 2, especially in New England, gives a slightly better indication as to who has successfully been integrated into the franchise. Not only can a bigger sample size of performance be analyzed, but the players themselves also have more experience in the system and a whole offseason to prepare for an upcoming season.
Belichick recognizes the advantage for his players to be there in Foxboro from the very beginning. Many players have benefited in their second year because they were able to adapt to the way the Patriots do things - the "Patriot Way" - which ultimately leads to success for those players.
2006: 175 carries, 745 yards, six rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown.
2007: 185 carries, 835 yards, six rushing touchdowns.
2011: 87 carries, 441 yards, one rushing touchdown.
2012: 290 carries, 1,263 yards, 12 rushing touchdowns.
2011: 15 carries, 57 yards, one rushing touchdown.
2012: 62 carries, 251 yards, three rushing touchdowns, eight receptions for 149 yards, one touchdown.
2014: Nine carries, 38 yards, five catches for 23 yards.
2015: 22 carries, 56 yards, two rushing touchdowns, 40 receptions for 410 yards, four touchdowns.
2018: 209 carries, 931 yards, six rushing touchdowns, seven receptions for 50 yards.
2019: 247 carries, 912 yards, seven rushing touchdowns, 12 receptions for 94 yards.
2019: Four carries, 12 yards.
2020: 137 carries, 691 yards, two rushing touchdowns. Five receptions for 52 yards.
Based on the track record of success Belichick-drafted running backs have had in their second season in New England, it’s a safe bet to assume running back Rhamondre Stevenson is poised for a breakout season this Fall.
Stevenson projects to play a significant role for New England in 2022 and beyond. He downplayed the learning curve involving new changes to the offense.
“You just gotta get in your books and know the playbook,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it was called last year. You just gotta be a student of the game and pick up quick — it’s the NFL.”
Don’t let him fool though, even if he downplayed the learning curve, he knows exactly who to turn to for guidance to ensure he improves.
"If I have any questions, I'm asking James White. He's going to lead me in the right direction every time," he said. "Having in the room, he's an older guy, and he knows the system, whether we change the plays or not. He knows the system, and he's a pro, so I just turn to him."
The 24-year-old had a bumpy training camp and start to the 2021 season, as he was inactive from Weeks 2-4 and again in Week 7. However, he eventually flourished as a potential star for the Patriots. In 12 games, the rookie compiled 606 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go along with 14 receptions for 123 yards. As the season went on, Stevenson’s play continued to improve as he became a punishing runner, breaking tackles to pick up first downs, and often lowering his helmet into the chest of defensive players to gain tough yards.
For the Patriots' upcoming season, giving the ball to Stevenson early and often will lead to big plays, making him a potential second-year breakout star in 2022.