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Dion Lewis is Better Than You Think. Much, Much Better

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Sometimes a thing comes into your life and you love them right away. Others take time for you to recognize their greatness. For instance, I had never seen Gal Gadot until Batman v. Superman, and she instantly became the Ace of my starting staff. But then Natalie Portman had been around for years before I fully appreciated how much I’d always liked her and added her to the rotation. Or take music. A few years back I, you, and everyone on the planet knew “Shake It Off” was a classic the first time we heard it. But I’d probably heard Jessie J’s “Price Tag” a hundred times and in a dozen movie trailers before I finally downloaded it and it’s been on every playlist I have ever since. I loved Anchorman from minute one; Step Brothers had to grow on me. And so on.

Taking time to recognize the greatness of something doesn’t diminish it any. It’s just that some qualities take longer to reveal themselves. But when they do, they are not to be admired and appreciated any less. Which leads me to Dion Lewis.

We’ve all watched Lewis since arrived in Foxboro in 2015. We saw the flashes of brilliance. Were disappointed by the injuries. Waited for the returns. Wondered how it would be if he were ever to stay healthy for a full season. And now that we’ve finally seen it, I still don’t think we fully grasp what we just witnessed. I know I didn’t until I dug into it just now. I thought Lewis had a nice year. Especially for a guy who was being talked about by virtually every media guy covering the Patriots last summer as the favorite to be a camp cut. Because he was “injury prone” and Rex Burkhead can do everything he can do.

But as good as I thought he was this year, he was better. As in, one of the best backs in football. As in he just put in one of the best seasons by a Patriots running back ever. Consider that in 2017 Lewis:

–Averaged the most yards per carry ever by a Patriots back with 130+ carries: 5.0

–Had 625 rushing yards in the second half of the season, the most in the NFL

–Is Pro Football Focus’ 2nd Team All Pro running back, behind only Todd Gurley

–Ranked at the top of PFF’s “Elusive” stat, which measures yards gained beyond where blockers help

–Ranked 6th in their Pass Blocking rating, behind backs twice his size like Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray

–Led the NFL in Catch Percentage, with 32 receptions on 35 targets for 91.4%

–Dropped zero passes

–Warmed Bill Belichick’s icy heart with no fumbles on 212 total touches

All this happened right in front of our eyes while we were fixated on the 3rd down defense, looking for signs of Tom Brady finally getting old, bitching about Stephon Gilmore and worrying about who’s Cross Fit trainer was allowed on the sidelines. The Patriots developed one of the best, most productive and versatile running back weapons in all of tackle football. And the more he’s seen the ball, the better he’s played. As strange as this might sound since no one’s said it since Corey Dillon in 2004, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the most important player in the offense in the playoffs won’t be Brady.

@jerrythornton1