With Patriots football only a few hours away, fans will be getting their first look at the team since the game against the Bills. A few things have changed since that game. First off Jamie Collins is now a Cleveland Brown. Going from arguably to the best team in the league to the worst. There also has been the addition of Dion Lewis to the active roster. Tonight fans should get there first look at the elusive running back in over a year.
Last season with Lewis on the field the Patriots had the most dynamic offense in the NFL. After he went down with injury there was no answer to replace Lewis’s all round ability. The Patriots offense averaged a yard less per play, and lacked explosiveness.
This season Pats have discovered the abilities of James White. White has 29 catches for 258 yards and two touchdowns. His 29 catches are good for 5th most on the team, surprisingly ahead of
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Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Amendola. The emergence of James White has helped replace Dion Lewis, and how he will be used in Lewis’s return will be interesting.
The other half of the equation in replacing Dion Lewis has been the heavy use of LeGarrette Blount. Blount has mainly taken over the early down responsibilities. With over 600 yards this year, Blount has looked refreshed and more agile this season. Making cuts that usually he wouldn’t attempt and pounding out yards at the end of the game has made him a critical member to the offense.
The combination of White and Blount has created a two headed monster in the Patriots backfield. The question now is how will the Patriots implement Lewis into the lineup. With both Blount and White playing so well, the coaching staff faces a challenging task.
Because Lewis has been activated it is likely he will have some role. If not they would have been kept Lewis on the PUP List as he still had a week of practice left. The logical method would be to ease Lewis back into the lineup over the next few weeks. This is similar to what Gronk went through earlier this season. This method would insure Lewis has a chance to get use to game speed and effort. It also prevent him from overworking himself and experiencing a setback. With the presence of both White and Blount they will be able to keep Lewis’s snaps low. Seeing the cautious approach Belichick has used this year this method seems most likely.
While on the field it remains to be seen whether he can be as dynamic as last season. Many players have experienced issues getting back to being themselves after an ACL tear. That being said Lewis has already come back from many injuries in his career, making it likely he will be able to again. His injury record is another reason to slowly ease him back into the lineup to make sure he is healthy for the playoffs.
In case you forgot about his ability, here is a preview.
1) Make the 1-handed catch 2) Juke defender out of shoes 3) Duck under tackle 4) End Zone
So far the reports from practice have been very positive. Teammates have shown excitement to get him back. This all points to Lewis coming back as his old self. Hopefully meaning a big boost to the Patriots offense.
As to how Lewis will impact the Patriots offense going forward, it is likely he will be used mostly on passing downs. So far this year Blount has had great success on early downs. They likely will keep him in for most running downs, and late in the game to churn the clock. On the other downs Lewis will be the likely be the first option. White will still be brought in when Lewis is tired, or for a change of pace to confuse defenses. Until Lewis is ready for a full load, expect him to be behind White on the depth chart.
The presence of two receiving backs also could give the Patriots the opportunity to split the duties on passing downs. This could allow them to come into the game with fresh legs, perhaps making them even more dynamic, and the offense harder to stop. Two receiving backs also ensures that if one does get injured, the other can take over the role and provide the same skill for the offense.
So everyone it is time to get ready for the spins and jukes of Dion Lewis. The versatile weapon is hours away from returning and with it and even better offense. While he may not immediately have a large role, it is always exciting to get a key player back late in the season. Lewis may not be the only factor in a deep playoff run, but with him it will certainly be much easier.