The New England Patriots announced Monday that they would be without running back Dion Lewis for the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn ACL in the team’s game against the Washington Redskins Sunday.
Lewis was just beginning to emerge as a name to watch in NFL circles but the effects it will have in New England are stronger than some may realize.
Halfway through the Patriots 2015 season, they stand as one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. The biggest driving force to this record has been the efficiency of quarterback Tom Brady. Brady’s efficiency can be attributed to, aside from the fact that he is an incredible player in his own right, the ability of his weapons.
Lewis has been the third biggest target for Brady this season, only behind the likes of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Lewis is third on the team behind only those two players in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
This is the spin move to end all other spin moves combined. Dion Lewis…smh. #MIAvsNE #TNF https://t.co/4GQSVn3Cj8
— NFL (@NFL) October 30, 2015
Not only is Lewis a great receiving back but when his number is called to actually take hand-offs, he delivers as well. He shows incredible burst and can break big runs when he gets into open field. Despite trailing in carries to the bulkier LeGarrette Blount, Lewis still leads the team with 4.8 yards per rush.
Brady has thrown the ball to five different running backs this season and that has accounted for over 70 passing attempts. Over 70 percent of those passes were also targeted at Dion Lewis. Now the Patriots need to look at which players can fill that void.
Running back Brandon Bolden came into the game late and accounted for three receptions for 27 yards and a fourth quarter touchdown. Bolden is a fourth year New England Patriot, who has shown some potential, but has always lacked enough consistency to find himself a serious role in the offense. Bolden has never been considered a strictly pass catching running back but he certainly has the capability.
James White is another young running back on the Patriots who was expected to see some playing time this season but has also not been able to find his way into the gameplan. With seven receptions and seven carries on the year, it is unknown whether White could handle a heavy workload in the NFL or not. Also, having only gained 15 yards on the ground in comparison to his 52 yards as a pass catcher, White doesn’t provide the same element of versatility that the other backs force upon opposing defenses.
It would also not be surprising to see the Patriots bring in a free agent running back for a workout. The Cowboys recently released Joseph Randle and the Steelers released speedy RB Dri Archer. A couple of other names to look out for are LaMichael James and Montee Ball.
This is not the first bump in the road for Lewis so confidence should still be had in his return. Lewis caught tough breaks early in his career. First, he was doing well for the Philadelphia Eagles before Chip Kelly came in and traded Lewis to the Cleveland Browns to back up Trent Richardson.
Lewis unfortunately fractured his fibula in a preseason game with the Browns. He eventually signed with the Indianapolis Colts but was released only eight days later. He even worked out for the Patriots but the team turned their sites on signing LeGarrette Blount instead. Lewis did not become a member of the Patriots until New Years Eve, 2014.
The Patriots will certainly miss what Lewis brought to the team. As the team looks poised to make a run for back-to-back championships, Lewis’ role will have to be cut out and refilled quickly.