Impact of Dion Lewis injury on Patriots' attack
Despite the good news abound in New England following a 27-10 win over Washington, Patriots fans received some bad news concerning a key piece to their 8-0 offense: RB Dion Lewis left the field with an apparent knee injury.
Lewis came into the game on Sunday as the 11th ranked (80.0) running back in the league—with the 10th best receiving grade at the position—and has been a major part of the Patriots’ offensive scheme. The Patriots RB also owned the top elusive rating in the NFL entering Week 9, forcing 16 tackles while rushing this season, 21 on receiving plays.
Chosen in the fifth round by Philadelphia in the 2011 draft, Lewis had only three career receptions in 24 games before the season started; through six games of action this season, however, he ranks sixth yards per route run (1.95) on 41 targets for 349 yards.
Lewis missed the 2013 season with a fibula injury, and was not signed last season before the Patriots’ decided to give him a shot. He replaced the valuable veteran Shane Vereen, who signed with the Giants this off-season for bigger dollars. Vereen ranked seventh last season in yards per route run for the Patriots, and is currently seventh again behind—you guessed it—Dion Lewis. Lewis not only came cheap, but he turned out to be just as productive—if not more so—than his predecessor, and signed a team-friendly contract extension with the Pats in early October that will keep him around through the 2017 season.
The big question now is, what will Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels do if Lewis misses valuable playing time?
The only example we have of life without Lewis came in Week 7 against the New York Jets, when Lewis was out with an abdominal injury, replaced by James White. White, a fourth-round pick from Wisconsin last year, played the most snaps of his career in that win (43).
The offense not only remained active in the passing game with White, but it was actually more relevant than ever, as QB Tom Brady completed 34 passes on 54 attempts for his second-best game grade of the season. White, meanwhile, enjoyed a career-best game grade while filling in for Lewis.
Even though White played for a run-first program at Wisconsin, he demonstrated solid receiving skills in his final season for the Badgers, netting 39 receptions for 300 yards and two scores.
This is a great example of why the offense will remain status quo without Lewis.