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Should The Lions Sign The Shifty New England Running Back?
Dion Lewis, running back for the New England Patriots
Weight: 195 pounds
2017 Stats: 896 rushing yards, 5.0 yards per carry, 6 rushing touchdowns, 32 receptions, 214 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns, 24.8 yards per kickoff return, 1 kickoff returned for touchdown
Career Stats: 1584 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 10 rushing touchdowns, 88 receptions, 717 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns, 22.9 yards per kickoff return, 1 kickoff returned four touchdown
Dion Lewis was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He lasted only two seasons in Philly, carrying the ball just 26 times 171 yards over that time period. Going into the 2013 season, Lewis signed with the Cleveland Browns after being cut from the Eagles, but suffered a season ending injury in a preseason game. He signed with the Colts in 2014, but was unable to make their final roster.
Lewis signed with the New England Patriots the next season, and he broke out in a big way. In seven games, he totaled 622 yards and four touchdowns. In 2016, he had a bit of a down year, totaling only 377 yards from scrimmage with no touchdowns. However, he rebounded with the best season of his career in 2017, gaining 1110 yards from scrimmage with nine total touchdowns.
One of the things that Lewis is most well known for is his versatility. The Patriots have asked him to run, catch and return kickoffs, and he has succeed at all three. Whether they have asked him to run to the outside or up the middle, he’s been able to do either. He isn’t just a checkdown receiver, the Patriots have had him run many intermediate and deep routes in the passing game as well.
Lewis is a do-it-all type of back, and New England has taken advantage of that when he’s been on the field. Whether Lewis stays with the Patriots or signs with another team this offseason, I expect him to continue to succeed at whatever his team asks of him.
Dion Lewis is extremely hard to tackle. When you watch his game film, it seems like all he does is make potential tacklers look silly. He has an elite cutting ability on juke moves, and can turn any run into a big gain. Here are some examples of Lewis’ agility.
This eight yard run may not seem too impressive at first glance, but it really is. Lewis entirely made the play on his own, as his initial running lane up the middle was clogged by Jets defenders. Lewis then did a good job of bouncing the run outside and making Jets safety Jamal Adams miss with a great juke move. He tops it off by falling forward through contact at the end. Runs like this make a big difference, because if he had just gone down in the backfield (as we saw all season long with Abdullah and Riddick), it’s second and 10. Instead, he made a great play to set up second and short.
This run showed both tremendous agility and vision from Lewis. The run initially looked like it was going to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but Lewis was aware enough to cut the run back to the inside and find an opening. He then accelerated to the second level for a big gain for the Patriots. This is the type of running that was really missing from the Lions backfield in 2017.
On this play, Lewis converts a third and one, a situation the Lions notoriously struggled with this season. The offensive line did a good job of blocking for Lewis, and he found the lane, bursting through for a big gain. Lewis’ agility came into play at the end, when he got an extra six yards from making the Dolphins safety dance with some nifty juke moves.
Lots of people think that Lewis can’t be a power runner because of his size, but I find that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, he will never rip off any Marshawn Lynch like tackle breaking runs, but Lewis runs very angry and does a great job of getting through contact considering he’s under 200 pounds. Here are some examples.
This is another run where Lewis displays great vision. He initially almost ran into the back of his own lineman, but instead of being tackled for a loss, he hesitated and waited for the blocks to develop. After they did, he used his acceleration to burst through the opening, then ran right over a Jets linebacker, turning what could have been a run for a loss into a first down.
On this play, Lewis’ power alone earns the Patriots a first down on an 11 yard run. There is good blocking from the Patriots offensive line which buys Lewis about five yards, but after that this run is all him. A bills defensive back was able to get his hands on Lewis, but he shrugged the defender right off. After that, five Bills appeared to have Lewis stopped just short of the first down, but Lewis would not relent, pushing the entire pile forward past the first down marker.
This is good power running from Lewis on the goal line. He showed fantastic balance here after he broke through the offensive line, staying on his feet to about the two yard line. Then, he lowered his shoulder and just forced his way past the goal line and into the end zone. Lewis’ shortness benefits him on these kinds of runs, he can slip right between defenders and work his way in for touchdowns.
Here, Lewis again gets good run blocking, but turns it into an even bigger run by breaking tackles. After he got about five yards down the field, he just completely shrugged off a diving tackle attempt by a Miami linebacker. Then, Lewis got to the second level, where he spun out of another tackle attempt from a Miami defensive back. Finally, linebacker Kiko Alonso was able to catch up with Lewis at the end.
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