New England Patriots running backs Dion Lewis and James White rank fourth and fifth in the NFL for most forced missed tackles on receptions over the past two seasons.
Lewis has forced 29 missed tackles on a mere 53 receptions, making him the most elusive receiving back in the NFL. While Lewis struggled as a receiver in 2016 as he worked his way back from injury, he retained his ability to force missed tackles in the run game, with Pro Football Focus noting that Lewis “has forced 56 missed tackles on his last 186 touches, by far the highest rate in the NFL.”
White is a little less elusive, but that doesn’t make him a lesser target. He somehow finds himself in a position where he doesn’t need to force a missed tackle on a regular basis. He ranks #1 in Pro Football Focus’ grading system as a receiving back on a per-snap basis over the past two seasons, meaning that he consistently adds value whenever he’s on the field as a receiver out of the backfield.
PFF isn’t alone in this evaluation. When we look at Football Outsiders’ “Yards Above Replacement” metric, Lewis ranks second to Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson as the most valuable receiving back over the past two seasons.
There is room for both Lewis and White to contribute in the Patriots backfield in 2017, even if it means that Lewis has a more specialized role.