You don’t often see a “scat back” operate the way Dion Lewis does.
That’s because the 5-foot-8, 195-pound New England Patriot isn’t one. At least not anymore.
It is a description Lewis has long since outgrown, even if he’s listed with wideout Bernard Reedy as the shortest member of New England’s 53-man roster and tied with safety Devin McCourty for seventh-lightest. But that isn’t news to Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone leading up to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.
He knows Lewis does plenty of his damage where the 290-plus-pounders roam. Where the likes of Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Abry Jones and Marcell Dareus will.
“Pfft, oh absolutely,” Marrone said in his press conference Thursday when asked if Lewis runs up the middle, via Jaguars.com. “Don’t let the size or the height, basically, fool you.”
Lewis has handled 176 carries for 859 yards and five touchdowns on the ground over New England’s last 12 games. He’s had double-digit rushes in all but one of those. He’s had 15 or more in six, and amassed 50 rushes combined over the last two weeks of the regular season alone.
That doesn’t happen just on crack tosses to the flats.
“I try not to be a one-trick pony,” Lewis told reporters in the fall, per Patriots.com. “I’m small but I’m not little.”
Marrone would agree.
“I mean, he has excellent power, really good spin,” said Marrone. “You got to get population to him. You got to get a lot of people around him.”
The looks can be deceiving. So can the versatile bundle of statistics.
The fact Lewis has also caught 34 passes for three touchdowns – and returned a kickoff for another – since Oct. 15 against the New York Jets has made him tougher to categorize. The fact Rex Burkhead, James White and Mike Gillislee have phased in and out for 304 offensive touches from Week 1 up through the divisional round might suggest it’s a full-fledged committee, too. But the Patriots have gotten Lewis the ball on first-and-10, second-and-medium, third-and-short, and in the kicking game for good reason over the last dozen games.
He’s a problem. An exception. A sudden-yet-patient runner who’s hard to see, with low center of gravity that’s hard to halt.
“He has speed, he can get it outside, he can go downhill on you. He’s an outstanding back,” added Marrone, who was Syracuse’s head coach during Lewis’ two seasons in the Big East, when he tallied 3,265 yards and 31 touchdowns from scrimmage. “And he’s a Pitt guy, so I know a little bit from coming out of college.”
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. The same goes for the last time the 2011 fifth-rounder faced Jacksonville: Sept. 27, 2015 – a 51-17 Patriots victory in which Lewis had 37 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards and one touchdown.
This isn’t the same Jaguars defense. It isn’t the same Jaguars head coach. It might not be the same Lewis, either.
Eight of Lewis’ 10-most productive rushing performances have arrived this campaign, and so have three of his 10-most productive receiving performances.
Lewis has strung together three consecutive games with 125-plus yards of offense as well.
And the 27-year-old was voted All-AFC as a kick returner by the Pro Football Writers of America earlier this week.