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News Every Day |

This Patriots Newcomer Wants To Prove He’s Still Backfield Weapon

FOXBORO, Mass. — Pop quiz: Name the only NFL team that currently has two 1,000-yard running backs on its roster.

Answer: the New England Patriots.

Spearheading New England’s backfield, of course, is Rhamondre Stevenson, who’s coming off one of the most productive seasons ever by a Bill Belichick-era Patriots skill player. Stevenson was a weapon as a rusher and, out of necessity, as a pass-catcher in 2022, racking up 1,461 yards from scrimmage while playing in a thoroughly disjointed offense. Only three Patriots since 2000 have topped that mark: Corey Dillon in 2004, Randy Moss in 2007 and Wes Welker in 2011.

But that position group sorely lacked depth, resulting in an overwhelming workload for Stevenson that eventually wore him down. Damien Harris should have been a dynamite second option, but he dealt with a litany of injuries that sidelined him for six games and part of three others. The Patriots did not trust rookies Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris with offensive roles until they were forced to do so late in the year, and third-down back Ty Montgomery was lost for the season in Week 1.

The Patriots will be hoping their other member of the 1K Club can remedy that issue this season.

That would be James Robinson, one of several offensive players New England picked up in veteran free agency. Robinson is coming off an underwhelming 2022 campaign in which he failed to top 500 yards from scrimmage, averaged less than 4 yards per carry, was traded midseason and sat out the final five games as a healthy scratch.

Two years earlier, though, Robinson looked like a budding star. He was terrific as an undrafted rookie in 2020, rushing for 1,070 yards in just 14 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars — 30 more than Stevenson had in 17 games last season — while catching 49 passes for 222 yards. The Illinois State product finished that debut season with the ninth-most yards from scrimmage in the NFL (1,414) and 10 total touchdowns.

Robinson’s numbers dipped in Year 2 during Urban Meyer’s disastrous reign as Jaguars head coach (767 rushing yards, 222 receiving yards, eight total touchdowns) and a torn Achilles ended his season in late December. Jacksonville traded him to the New York Jets last October, and after managing just 85 yards on 29 carries across five appearances, he was exiled to the inactive list.

Now, Robinson is in New England, looking to both prove he’s still the same player he was in 2020 and give the Patriots the reliable complementary back they need.

“I would say (last season was) not ideal,” the 24-year-old said Thursday in his first meeting with New England reporters. “I don’t really like moving around like that. It was kind of hard to just find my role, really, and do what I can for the teams that I was on. … Coming off the Achilles, there was a lot of talk of, ‘Oh, he’s not going to be this, he’s not going to be that,’ but I feel like at the start of that year when I came back, I was doing pretty fine, and I haven’t had problems with it since.”

Robinson said he’s “really looking forward” to showing what he can do in training camp. His proven ability to contribute in the running and passing games should be a real boon for the Patriots if he can stay healthy and rediscover his rookie-year form.

“I’m just trying to bring what I did in my rookie season, here,” Robinson said.

The Patriots, who let Harris walk to sign a one-year, $1.77 million contract with the rival Buffalo Bills, did not make much of a financial commitment to Robinson. His two-year, $4 million deal includes just $150,000 in guaranteed money, meaning New England easily could cut him in training camp if he does not meet expectations.

The hope, though, is that he takes some snaps and touches away from the overworked Stevenson. A Year 2 leap from Strong — who was viewed as a possible James White successor after last year’s draft — or a bounce-back year from the veteran Montgomery also would help New England field a more diverse backfield.

NESN 360 in-article asset

The post This Patriots Newcomer Wants To Prove He’s Still Backfield Weapon appeared first on NESN.com.


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