Patriots running back Ramonder Stevenson focused on becoming a better pass catcher entering his second season.

Foxboro, Mass. — It’s been rough sledding for the Patriots in the NFL draft in recent years, but the 2021 class is poised to be one of the best to come through New England in some time. One of those second-year players looking to come off a promising rookie campaign is running back Ramondre Stevenson. The fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma’s introduction to camp last year didn’t go particularly smoothly as he was out of shape, but after what he described as a “trial run” his rookie year, he’s had a great start to his sophomore season. Came out on the field to start. On a better note.

“I didn’t really come in the best shape,” Stevenson told reporters Thursday after the second day of Patriots training camp. “I knew what I had to do, and I just took the steps where I needed to go.”

These moves led Stevenson to a significantly leaner camp. He said he’s lost about seven pounds overall and is “lifting better weights.” The 24-year-old said he checked into camp this year weighing 225 pounds.

“I think I can run a lot,” he said. “I feel better overall. I can’t describe it. I just feel better.”

When you consider Stevenson’s starting point and how he’s produced throughout the 2021 season, the mind boggles when it comes to expanding his potential range with a better foundation.

While Damien Harris may still have a grip on the starting down job, one role that could be up for grabs is the pass catcher going out of the backfield. After missing most of last season on PUP with James White (hip) and rookie Pierre Strong Jr. Limited to the first two days of camp, anyone on the roster has an opportunity to demonstrate their ability in that role. Through two non-padded practices, Stevenson has made good on the promise. This has also been an area of ​​emphasis for the second-year running back throughout the offseason.

“I feel a lot more comfortable and confident running routes and catching passes out of the backfield,” Stevenson said.

On where he believes he’s improved the most as a pass catcher, Stevenson said: “I’d just say third-down concepts, blitz pickups, and just understanding the overall thing. That’s it. Running routes, catching the ball, pass protection. That’s it. Learning the whole third down system.”

Last season, Stevenson caught 14 of his 18 targets for 123 yards. With the whiteout, it was Brandon Bolden who was the team’s top target (49 targets), but he’s now in Las Vegas with Josh McDaniels and the Raiders. If White’s rehab slows his return, it paves the way for Stevenson to potentially see the bulk of McJones’ targets.

“I’m just going to be ready for what I need to do and that’s really coach’s decision,” Stevenson said when asked if he would embrace the third-down back role.

In 2021, the Patriots were targeted 111 times.