New England’s breakout 2015 star running back, Dion Lewis, was back at practice on Thursday. In November 2015, Lewis tore his ACL in a game against the Redskins that took him out for the rest of the season. It was seemingly obvious that he would be 100% to begin the 2016 season, having a good ten months to recover. Unfortunately, there was a setback in the early summer with a separate injury and surgery that has been lingering for quite some time. Have no fear, Pats fans. He’s back.
Lewis was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start the regular season; rules state that he can come back in as soon as eight weeks, which is where we are right now in the season. As Lewis returned to practice on Thursday, the 21-day activation clock starts, meaning that the team has to activate him to the 53-man roster between now and November 17th.
The Patriots could activate him for Sunday’s game against the Bills, as they do have an open roster spot at the moment, but they happen to have a handy-dandy Week 9 bye. Giving Lewis an extra couple of weeks to rest in between practices could be crucial to ensuring that he is fully healthy and ready to go come Week 10. It’d be shocking if he did play this week, considering that he did return to practice late in the week, and because there is a bye week following this game.
Coming into this season, there was cause for concern at the running back position in New England, without the shifty and lovable Dion Lewis, plus not knowing what we’d get out of LeGarrette Blount and James White. As it stands right now, the addition of a healthy Lewis will only make the Patriots’ offense deadlier. Both the passing and running games have looked phenomenal under all three quarterbacks that have started this year for New England. Bringing Lewis back into the mix is only going to make things worse for the opponent.
Last season, when Lewis was healthy, he stood out. Like, really stood out. He made highlight reel plays multiple times a game, quickly becoming a star. He broke a million tackles a game, was good with his feet, found gaps, and really just made things a whole easier for everyone involved. Will that still be the case when he eventually does return? Who knows. Athletes and injuries are always unpredictable. He could still very well be 2015 Dion Lewis, or perhaps he looks shaky and struggles a bit. If there are issues upon his return, I doubt that they last for too long. The Patriots only got a small sample size out of him, but I predict that he’ll be back to normal in no time.
As I previously mentioned, the success of both Blount and White may not give Lewis the same amount of playing time that he got last year. Considering the two backs’ performances as of late, Belichick will have to find a way to give them fairly equal playing time, somehow. White will probably be the guy we see least of, if Lewis is full steam ahead upon his arrival. Keep in mind, White has been used for screen passes and is a decent catching back (minus the 2015 AFC Championship Game), so he won’t become useless.
James White, so far in 2016:
Receiving: 38 targets, 27 receptions, 244 yards, 3 TD’s
Rushing: 24 rushes, 92 yards, no fumbles
143 rushes, 556 yards, 8 TD’s
It’ll be hard to split playing times for all three guys, as all three are valuable in their own way. That’s why Belichick is the coach, and I’m not. It works out great. Anyway, Blount will continue to be Blount and dominate, Lewis will be back very, very well rested and healthy, and White can be used any way in the backfield. Having a RB core like this is ideal, having three reliable guys for any situation, and being able to mix and match. Plus, there’s no set third down guy just yet, but all three are capable of being “that guy,” which is awesome. If they can stay healthy, those three will help immensely for the remainder of the season, and who knows, maybe even the future.