It’s past time.
We need to settle on a nickname for Dion Lewis. The New England Patriots running back has been called “Jitterbug” by teammate Julian Edelman, which is pretty good; ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi likes “Squirty.” Also not bad.
But for a player who has added another dimension to a scary offense, Lewis deserves more. Something near-legendary befitting yet another huge performance in the Patriots’ 36-7 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
It was an ugly game that was plagued by penalties, dropped passes and bad offensive line play on both sides of the field, but Lewis classed it up. Every time he touched the ball, Lewis made at least one Dolphin miss, often more than one. He finished with six receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown, plus five rushes for 19 yards.
Lewis did all this despite being questionable to play Thursday, having not practiced this week and likely on some kind of pitch count. He made linebacker Koa Misi miss badly on his first touch of the night and later converted a third-and-16 screen that set the tone for the night. Time after time, he made dudes whiff.
“He’s doing well,” Edelman deadpanned after the game to NFL Network.
Rob Gronkowski will always earn the praise and the double teams. Edelman has been Tom Brady’s BFF for a while now. But Brady predicted this before the season, telling NBC broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth that Lewis would be a folk hero in New England. That’s where we’re at now.
Lewis missed the Patriots’ Week 7 win over the New York Jets, and they handed the ball off four times in the game. Would they have gone to a 20-carry gameplan had he been healthy? No. But it says something that the Patriots — two hours before kickoff last week — installed a series of four-wide, one-TE plays just because Lewis was out.
For a reminder, this is a player who had 43 carries and three catches in his NFL career entering this season, effectively written off by most of the league after not taking a regular-season snap the past two seasons. But this makes him precisely the most Patriots player ever — a perfect mashup of Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and a dash Shane Vereen.
Mike Lombardi, an assistant to the Patriots’ coaching staff, had Lewis with the Cleveland Browns and knew he had talent. Moreover, he knew Bill Belichick would know how to use Lewis. This offseason, Lewis changed up his training routine and improved his jitterbugginess and squirtiness, and the Patriots now have an essential offensive piece that they found amid the jetsam and flotsam of the unemployed masses.
This is how the Patriots reload every few years. They don’t miss badly on their first-round picks, they unearth solid players in the middle rounds, they find a gem or two every year in the seventh round or undrafted pool and they sign hungry, talented and motivated veterans in free agency that are often unwanted by other teams.
That’s Lewis, who made the Dolphins look silly several times Thursday. The Patriots can slice you in so many ways. Gronkowski, Edelman (two oh-by-the-way touchdowns Thursday), Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Lewis all can be key targets, and Brandon LaFell is coming on. How do you stop that? That’s why they are averaging a league-best 36 points a game.
So yes, can we get Lewis a nickname? Sure, that’s very un-Patriots-like, right? Team over individual and all that. But Belichick has let Gronkowski and Edelman let loose, he’s fully behind Brady continuing his revenge tour against the NFL and the Patriots might have a better team than the one that won the Super Bowl a year ago.
It’s time we give some love to a three-times-released 5-foot-7 back who has made a great team even better.
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