“That is probably my mistake,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “I always went into a game wanting to use [Lewis] a little bit more and then you get into a game and every play is important, and LeSean was so good last year, it was hard to take LeSean out. And it will still be hard to play LeSean out, but certainly would like to play the other fellas a little bit more. Dion has earned that role up to date.”
With that last sentence, you get the feeling that rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk really have their work cut out for them if they plan on securing the No. 2 role.
Just how little was Lewis used last season? He got plenty of work in the regular-season finale with McCoy sidelined because of injury, with 12 of his 23 caries coming in that game.
In the 14 games he was active alongside McCoy, Lewis played in just 19 offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. That averages out to just over on play per game.
We essentially know nothing about him as a pro player. He has impressed to this point at Lehigh, however.
“Dion has had an excellent camp up to date,” said Mornhinweg. “He sure is a fine runner, excellent with his protections. He’s probably a little shorter than one would think, but he’s certainly bigger. He’s a very strong and physical man. He’s doing a nice job in the pass game as well.”
Lewis followed McCoy at Pitt and put up similar numbers. Here’s what each did in their two seasons with the Panthers.
McCoy: 584 attempts, 2816 yards (4.8 avg.), 35 rushing TDs, 549 receiving yards.
Lewis: 544 attempts, 2,850 yards (5.3 avg.), 30 rushing TDs, 405 receiving yards.
“Dion was a fine player coming out of Pittsburgh. This guy’s a player. I’ve liked him since Day 1. He’s shown his natural ability since Day 1. He is a tough guy,” said Mornhinweg.
We know about his Pitt days. We know about his underwhelming campaign as a kick returner last season. We know about his offseason brush with the law.
This season is about finding out about Lewis as a pro back.
You can follow Tim McManus on Twitter and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.