The New England Patriots running backs have done a great job in 2016, with LeGarrette Blount and James White creating a formidable tandem. The backfield is about to get even better as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports RB Dion Lewis is expected to return to practice this week.
#Patriots RB Dion Lewis (knee) expected back at practice this week, source said, starting his 21-day window for activation. He's doing well— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 26, 2016
The Patriots have three weeks to activate Lewis to the 53-man roster once he returns to practice, so it’s unlikely that Lewis will return until after the week 9 bye, but this is a major step in the right direction.
White and Blount will lead the backfield against the Bills this week as Lewis acclimates to practice, and then Lewis could be ready to return in week 10 against the Seahawks.
Lewis will likely ease his way back into the offense, similar to how TE Rob Gronkowski required a quarter of the season before getting back to full speed, but that just means that Lewis should be hitting his stride in time for the playoffs.
While Blount and White have been great this year, Lewis is unique in his ability to run, catch, and block. He can make the most out of the sometimes small rushing lanes between the tackles, where Blount is too large to fit, and he is a more consistent runner than White in general.
When asked if Lewis is expected to practice, head coach Bill Belichick deflected by saying, “If he is, we'll let you know.”
Edit: CSNNE’s Tom Curran reports that Lewis’ injury was a patella stress fracture that developed over the summer.