New England Patriots 2017 player outlook: Dion Lewis

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Dion Lewis
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Dion Lewis /

With the addition of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis still figures to play a role in the offense.

There is no doubt New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis is the most explosive players on the field when healthy.  The key word there is…healthy.

Over the past two seasons with the Patriots, Lewis has only played a total of 14 games in the regular season.  A torn ACL suffered in Week 7 of the 2015 season kept Lewis out through half of the 2016 season.

The 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back out of the University of Pittsburgh showed enough during his time on the field in 2015 to earn a contract extension with the Patriots.  While he did average 4.8 yards per carry, his receiving out of the backfield added a dynamic element to the Patriots’ offense.

FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 14: Dion Lewis
FOXBORO, MA – JANUARY 14: Dion Lewis /

During that 2015 season he had 36 receptions for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns in seven games.  Not only did he become a reliable target for Tom Brady, he became an explosive threat whenever he touched the football.

In 2016, Lewis returned slowly to regain some of that effectiveness in the offensive attack.  He didn’t catch as many balls out of the backfield, but he did run the ball between the tackles effectively.  He rushed for 283 yards on 64 attempts and was key for the Patriots down the stretch of the regular season when they really relied on their running game.

Top highlight of 2016

AFC Divisional Game – 98-yard kick-off return

Dion Lewis had the playoff debut of his life.  He caught a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and delivered the first postseason kickoff return TD in New England Patriots history.

See below:

The three touchdowns helped the Patriots beat the Houston Texans 34-16.  He became the first player in NFL postseason history to have a rushing TD, receiving TD and kick-off return TD in a single game.  But, as much as he helped win the game, he let the Texans back in the game with a fumble on a kick off return in the second quarter.

Related Story: Patriots Gridiron News: Dion Lewis Emerging as a Pass Protector

Overall, Lewis accounted for 188 total yards in his first career postseason game.

Outlook for 2017

Injuries and ball security can both get in the way of what Dion Lewis can do on the field this season for the New England Patriots.

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If he stays healthy, I see Lewis becoming the team’s best all-around running back.  On a team that has James White, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, the versatility the team can display with their running back group is overwhelming.

At the same time, with the depth, there is not much room for error.  If Lewis puts the ball on the ground, Bill Belichick will have no problem sticking him in the doghouse or even releasing him.

While there has been rumblings that Dion Lewis could be the odd man out, running backs coach Ivan Fears dispelled such a notion.  He said during OTAs that the fifth-year back is still very much part of the team’s plans.

"“Dion’s still Dion,” Fears said when asked if Lewis was the forgotten back, via Patriots Wire.  “Shoot, nobody works harder than Dion around here getting ready to go.  Shoot, you guys say that.  Don’t throw that at me.  No, no, no.  I haven’t forgotten Dion – not one bit.  Nobody on this staff or team has forgotten Dion.  So Dion’s still a hell of a part of this program. I don’t know where that’s coming from.  But the press, you guys can handle that yourself.”"

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Again, as long as he remains healthy, I believe Dion Lewis will be a very impactful weapon in both the running game and passing game.