It became official on Monday what many in New England had feared following Sunday’s game: Patriots running back Dion Lewis will be out for the season with a torn ACL. Lewis, who had been a major contributor out of the backfield for the Patriots, will undergo surgery with the goal of being ready for the start of next season.
Throughout the Bill Belichick/ Tom Brady run in New England, the Patriots have always had a shifty pass catching running back who can make key plays in the passing game. First it was Kevin Faulk and then Shane Vereen. With Vereen’s departure this past offseason, the team looked to fill that hole and had Lewis competing with James White for reps. Lewis won the competition and quickly established himself as an important component of New England’s offense. His ability to break tackles and maneuver through crowded areas made him very difficult to match-up with. On several occasions, Brady would target Lewis over Rob Gronkowski or Julian Edelman based on favorable match-ups.
This is not to say that losing Lewis is on the same level as losing Gronkowksi or Edelman, but he proved to be much more than just a safety valve out of the backfield and he will be missed. James White and Brandon Bolden will need to step up in order to shoulder the load left by Lewis. Bolden filled in admirably against Washington, but he does not have the speed or shiftiness of Lewis and White has had trouble cracking the lineup in recent weeks.
With Lewis out, the Patriots will need to hope either Bolden or White can fill his role. It can’t be expected for either one of them to play at Lewis’ level, but they will need to produce. If they cannot, the Patriots offense will have more difficulty moving the ball.