Patriots' Dion Lewis owns top elusive rating
In recent years, the New England Patriots backfield has been a weekly “Who gets the carries?” lottery. However, after the opening two weeks of the 2015 season, the Pats seem to have the three-down back they have been missing: Dion Lewis. A fifth-round pick by the Eagles in 2011, Lewis is leading our elusive rating statistic through Week 2, having broken 17 tackles on 32 touches. This more-than-adequately replaces the departed Shane Vereen in the passing game, while also adding an extra dimension to their running game.
The elusive rating is a measure of a running back’s performance independent of his offensive line, taking into account his missed tackles forced (both running and receiving) and his yards after contact on run plays. After the first two weeks of the season, Lewis has an elusive rating of 181.1; last year, Le’Veon Bell led the league after two weeks with an elusive rating of 119.9, having broken 15 tackles on 43 touches with a similar 3.4 yards per carry after contact.
The only running back in the last eight years to top Lewis after the opening two weeks of the season was C.J. Spiller in 2012, who posted a ridiculous 214.0 elusive rating in that span. Spiller broke 10 tackles in those first two games of 2012, and averaged 7.3 yards per carry after contact on his 29 carries. That set the foundation for Spiller’s best season as a pro, breaking 66 tackles on 250 touches to set an elusive rating of 94.6 by the end of the season, the best elusive rating we have seen in the last eight years.
It is unlikely that Lewis will sustain this amazing form throughout the season, or maintain his amazing elusive rating through 16 games. But, of his next four opponents, two (Jacksonville and Indianapolis) are among a select group of nine teams that have already missed at least 20 tackles this through Week 2. The Colts missed 15 tackles against the Bills in Week 1 while the Jags failed to bring down the ball carrier 11 times against the Panthers and nine times against the Dolphins a week later. If the Patriots break their habit of recent seasons and stick with Lewis as their three-down back, we could see Lewis continue to put up some startling numbers as he weaves his way through opposing defenses.