The Patriots are standing at .500 after 12 games, having had a two-game losing streak, followed by a 5-1 run, and then another two-game losing streak. It’s safe to say that this season has been up-and-down for the Patriots, and while they aren’t at the level that the fanbase wants, there are players making a special impact on the team.
RB Rhamondre Stevenson
This one is somewhat of a low-hanging fruit but an important one nonetheless. A singular, dominating RB1 has never been the Patriots’ style, and at the beginning of the season, it seemed like the Patriots were headed for running back by platoon once again. But, with their draft pick Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris disappointing, Damien Harris having some injury issues, Ty Montgomery being out for the season, and James White retiring in the offseason, the Patriots have needed someone to step up, and Rhamondre absolutely has.
Stevenson has been extremely impressive this season with his blend of speed, raw power, and tough running. As a result, he’s had 761 yards and 4 TD on 4.6 yards per carry. However, his impact is a lot more than that. Stevenson has created positive plays out of nothing, and he has had to especially with a struggling offensive line. The Patriots’ back is eighth in the league in yards after contact, and fifth in terms of broken tackles.
He has also been tremendous as a pass catcher, and is third on the team with 383 receiving yards, and leads the team in receptions with 56. Between his production on both of those wings, he has been the center of the team’s attack axis. Regardless of the outcome for the season, the former Sooner will be the Patriots’ lead back for years to come.
WR/S/ST Brenden Schooler
For a couple years, while I’ve been watching the Patriots’ perennial pro bowler Matthew Slater be the center of the Patriots’ punt coverage unit, I have wondered what the Patriots would do without him. This year, the Patriots got that answer. Their speedy undrafted free agent has been tearing up the field this year so far.
He has been all over plays. He is an adept blocker on the Patriots’ own punts and has a rare ability to alternate from blocker to blocker on the same play. On opponent punts, he has covered plays excellently. He has had 12 total tackles but has been the guy in the vicinity of the play more often than not. His stunning coverage of the field, not just in terms of his raw speed, but also his excellent sense of how the play is progressing.
Furthermore, his imposing presence and ability to reach the axis of the play before anyone else has led to him recovering two fumbles off muffed punts, both of which led to scoring drives. Schooler will be a permanent fixture on special teams and key in flipping the field for the Patriots.
S Adrian Phillips
There’s no question that the star of that unit is Kyle Dugger, both in terms of his coverage and ability to make plays, but in a safeties group that has been an excellent part of the Patriots’ secondary, Phillips has been right there with him.
In coverage, he has been difficult to deal with, syncing well with the entire group of safeties and cornerbacks in zone coverage plays. In 28 targets, he has only allowed 16 receptions, but he has also been impactful on plays he isn’t directly targeted in. He has had three pass deflections, and in general, he has made life difficult for opposing offenses.
Even more importantly, he has been extremely versatile, having big hits and function in linebacker-like roles against the run. He has had a total of 53 tackles, 35 of which are solo, and has had four run stuffs. Quietly, but surely, the Patriots safety is having an excellent season as an integral part of the secondary.
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