Around the NFL  

 

How will the Patriots replace star scat back Dion Lewis?

Print

One of the best stories of the 2015 NFL season came to a premature end in New England on Sunday when Dion Lewis went down with a torn ACL.

The jitterbug scat back worked his way back from obscurity to make football more fun to watch for two months, consistently juking would-be tacklers for extra yards via the run as well as the pass.

The most explosive satellite back of the Bill Belichick era, Lewis forced 43 missed tackles on 85 touches -- good for the highest Elusive Rating ever recorded by Pro Football Focus.

"Barry Sanders was the quickest I ever saw in terms of making a guy miss in a hole," former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt recently told Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report. "Dion isn't Barry Sanders, but he had some of that same make-a-guy-miss-in-a hole quickness. Plus he had 4.5 speed to outrun you. He could catch. He did things you can't coach."

Lewis was so effective that he earned a spot as the top satellite back on Around The NFL's quarter-season and midseason All-Pro squads.

Lewis was a perfect fit in the Patriots' spread attack, allowing Tom Brady to exploit mismatches against linebackers in coverage. Without Lewis, the Patriots wouldn't be leading the NFL in points per game, scoring in an incredible 31 consecutive quarters since the opening frame of Week 1.

Where do the Pats turn now that Lewis' magical season was cut short by a torn ACL?

LeGarrette Blount's role is certain to increase, but this will remain a committee attack with snaps doled out as the matchup and game situation merit.

When Lewis was forced out of Sunday's game, veteran special teamer Brandon Bolden assumed the passing-down chores. It didn't take long for Brady to call Bolden's number out wide, identifying linebacker Perry Riley as a liability in coverage on an 18-yard touchdown reception.

Every game, all season

While Bolden has held down a roster spot with a jack-of-all-trades utility, second-year back James White is closer to mastering Lewis' functionality in situations that call for an uptempo spread attack.

White was a healthy scratch versus the Redskins because Lewis was healthy. When Lewis missed the Jets game in Week 7, though, White played 43 snaps compared to Blount's eight and Bolden's zero. The plan for that matchup called for one of the pass-heaviest approaches in recent memory.

To add depth behind White, the Patriots might also opt to reconnect with street free agent Travaris Cadet, who was with the team in training camp.

As Brady proved in that sterling performance versus the Jets, this offense can still flourish without Lewis. The ceiling might not be as high and the consistency will likely wane, but the MVP frontrunner will still be directing an attack that features a bruising power runner, the game's dominant tight end and a versatile, underrated wide receiver corps.

As always, the Patriots will adjust and continue to dominate the AFC East.

Print