Dion Lewis is the most intriguing new offensive piece added to the Tennessee Titans. Will his elusiveness carry over to the Music City?
The painful memory of RB Dion Lewis gashing the Tennessee Titans defense in the divisional round is slowly fading. Lewis will pair with RB Derrick Henry for a tag-team with sights set on taking over the league.
With blazing speed, deceptive power and reliable pass-catching mitts, Lewis will be an important cog in the Titans 2018 offensive attack.
New England’s use of Lewis varied. At times, he would be the feature back. Other times he would split the workload. In some games, Lewis’s snaps came on special teams in the role of the returner.
The Titans invested some of their free agency bucks on Lewis.
Lewis is focused on proving he is worth every cent.
Size Be Damned
Lewis’s physical stature is not as intimidating as Henry.
However, as the old saying goes – “big things come in small packages.”
Lewis is not the first of his build. In recent memory, undersized backs such as Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Oliver have found ways to be effective – and sometimes deadly – on the offense.
Sproles ability negated his 5’6″ 190 pound frame. Woodhead and Oliver stood 5’8″ but had a little more meat on their bones that tipped the scales to be slightly over 200.
Lewis is just shy of 200 pounds and stands at 5’9″. and uses every square inch to make his money.
The compact Lewis carved out his role in New England after a few stints elsewhere. QB Tom Brady used Lewis to bail him out of broken down plays.
Brady also knew how to use Lewis to exploit mismatches against linebackers.
OC Matt LaFleur will help QB Marcus Mariota become synchronized with Lewis. LaFleur will make sure Mariota memorizes where Lewis will be on every play.
Lewis’s tenure in New England featured the stout back converting downs and exposing holes in the defense.
The debate on who will be the feature back has camps on both sides of the fence. Some are adamant of the backfield belonging to Henry, where others predict Lewis will get the majority of carries.
Neither back is putting their individual role above the team need. A logical approach would be to evaluate who gets the majority of touches on a game by game basis.
Henry’s usage was mismanaged last season. Despite RB DeMarco Murray clearly playing at less than 100%, Henry struggled to get the lion’s share of snaps.
The Titans attempted to use Henry as a powerback, which the eye-test would suggest he’d fit that role perfectly. However, Henry was not as effective running between the tackles as the Titans coaching staff thought he should be.
Henry is a “build up steam” running back. He excels in zone runs and stretch plays due to being afforded the space needed to get rolling.
LaFleur will look to put Henry in position to build up momentum and scheme the big-back into the open field.
Lewis, like Henry, is also most effective when he has room to operate.
Fortunately for Lewis, he is also deceptively effective in running through the interior.
The Titans interior offensive line didn’t perform well. GM Jon Robinson added competition via free agency that should help the interior improve.
Lewis, unlike Henry, is a lot more shifty. He can use his balance and size to create holes or space in ways Henry simply could not due to his stature making it impossible for him to disappear behind the offensive line.
The running back group will be fun to watch heading into training camp, with both backs eager to make the most of the snaps they receive.
Both Lewis and Henry will reap the rewards of an offense expected to use more screen and play actions passes.
One could guess that the Titans will strategically use the field and space to help generate plus-yardage plays. However, a respectable running game and realistic threats on the outside are needed to make this work.
It will be difficult for either Lewis or Henry to cause damage in the passing offense if the defense is keying on one or both due to not fearing the receivers ability to make plays.
How can Lewis or Henry help in that regard? By effectively running the ball.
If Lewis and Henry can become a solid one-two punch, receivers will find more opportunity – especially on play action plays.
To establish offensive harmony, the burden rests on the offensive line to avoid being a liability.