Dion Lewis has on;y been around New England for three games, but has already made his mark. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — Ivan Fears knew the Patriots had something in Dion Lewis before most anyone else realized it.
The longtime Patriots running backs coach said Monday there were flashes of what Lewis was capable of over the course of the spring and summer workouts leading up to training camp.
“We knew there was something there — we had a feeling there was something there, and we let it play out,” Fears said. “He took advantage of preseason games and practice sessions and he’s done a good job. Like all the guys, he’s [carved] out a little role for himself.”
He added: “He’s got exceptional quickness and he’s got the vision to go with it. He’s got the Kevin Faulk-type of vision. He sees a lot, but he can make things happen because of his feet and his ability to change directions. So, we’ll see what happens. He was hurt when he first came into the league. He was not as productive. He had some injuries, and now he’s had a year since that injury, so he was ready. His body responded, and he’s ready to go.”
After being signed to a future contract by the Patriots late last season, Lewis has responded with an impressive start to the 2015 season. Through three games, he leads the Patriots in rushing (30 carries, 146 yards, two touchdowns), but has also become a vital part of the passing game (15 catches — good for third on the team — for 179 yards). While his two fumbles (one lost) have stood out, he managed to display some nice mental toughness when it comes to bouncing back after making errors.
One thing that’s really stood out for Lewis over the course of the first three games is not just his quickness and dependability as a pass catcher out of the backfield, but his willingness to get tough yards between the tackles. Despite the fact that’s not a usual part of the responsibilities for a third-down back, Fears isn’t surprised the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder managed to display some toughness while grinding out some of that tough yardage.
“That was his MO at Pitt when he was in college,” Fears said. “He was a very productive every-down back. He’s not unfamiliar with running in between the tackles, so we just let him do what he does. We try to feature the strong points of each one of those guys when they’re out there and Dion is an exceptional runner. That was his strong suit in college, and he’s kind of proven to us he can do more than that.”
Lewis joins an impressive lineage of offensive options who have lined up at third-down back for the Patriots over the last decade, a group that includes Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen. According to Fears, Lewis has a lot of Faulk in his game.
“He’s very similar to Kevin — Kevin, of course. played at LSU, and was a hell of an every-down back,” he said. “The only limitation that these guys have had is the size factor. Everybody just knocked them because of it. But believe me, they’ve proven a lot of people wrong.
“Dion has still got a lot of work to do. We’re not giving him any crown right now. We’re just saying he’s been very good through three games and we look forward to see what he can do for us in the future.”
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