Dion Lewis spent his first two NFL seasons in Philadelphia. (NFL Game Rewind)
Outside of seven days in September, Dion Lewis was not on an NFL roster last season.
The 5-foot-8, 195-pound running back never played in a regular-season game for the Indianapolis Colts in 2014, nor did he for the Cleveland Browns after being acquired for linebacker Emmanuel Acho in 2013, suffering a broken leg in the preseason.
Much changed across the landscape since then. Just where Lewis fits into it now as a New England Patriot is unknown.
He was once an elusive Pittsburgh product, one who joined LeSean McCoy as a Philadelphia Eagles fifth-round pick after 2,860 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns over two college seasons. He was once named Freshman of the Year by the Sporting News and CBS Sports, second-team All-American by the AP, and considered a Heisman Trophy candidate after posting a campaign second to only Tony Dorsett in Panthers history.
Bradley Fletcher’s run in Philadelphia ended after two seasons. (NFL Game Rewind)
Bradley Fletcher and Robert McClain were not brought in to be Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. But the two veteran cornerbacks were brought in to compete for spots in the New England Patriots’ secondary, and perhaps meaningful ones.
Only their roles will take time to materialize, if they in fact do.
The two signed cost-effective one-year deals on Wednesday, without much certainty of where they’ll coincide with the likes of Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler, Alfonzo Dennard, Chimdi Chekwa, Daxton Swanson and Justin Green moving forward.
Travaris Cadet appeared in 41 games for New Orleans. (NFL Game Rewind)
Travaris Cadet took 11 handoffs over three years with the New Orleans Saints.
His job wasn’t to do so.
Cadet’s job was to play special teams, to return kicks, and to catch passes. He did all three. And in doing so, he stayed around, long after the former undrafted free agent by way of Appalachian State, Pearl River Community College and Toledo was expected to.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back stayed around for 41 games. Not because he was Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles. But because he was a serviceable roster spot built to be a little of everything. He was built to be reliable depth where needed.
Shane Vereen escaped for 11 catches in Super Bowl XLIX. (NFL Game Rewind)
Tom Brady. Julian Edelman. Rob Gronkowski. Malcolm Butler.
One received MVP, two others received 15 passes for over 170 yards and two touchdowns, and another received what would have been the game-winning touchdown. But the New England Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks’ was composed of many.
Here is look at seven other Patriots who proved to be constant parts of it, even if they were not alone.
Malcolm Butler secured Super Bowl XLIX with 26 to play. (NFL Game Rewind)
Malcolm Butler and Jermaine Kearse met at the 1:10 mark.
It was then, in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, that the 2014 undrafted cornerback and the 2012 undrafted receiver both got their hands and legs on a spiral from quarterback Russell Wilson.
Butler dove back, and Kearse followed suit behind him as safety Duron Harmon flew overhead and the ball fluttered below. The improbable end result was a 33-yard gain. And the improbable end result sent the Seattle Seahawks to within five yards of a second Lombardi Trophy in as many years.
Marshawn Lynch will look to hit to the edge versus New England. (NFL Game Rewind)
Marshawn Lynch led the league in yards after contact in 2014.
He’s built to do so. But what the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Seattle Seahawks running back has done without contact is what makes him a threat to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Lynch’s size, burst and power have carved him a place in the Seahawks’ offense with one cut, and they’ve also carved him a lane through defenses long before he arrived there in 2010. With a subtle squaring of the shoulder, a subtle lean of his hips, Lynch sets up the portrait the way he sees fit. And from there, he drives back outside as defensive fronts buy into what he’s selling on the inside.
Much of that cannot be taught or limited. It can only be prepared for.
New England and Seattle will meet for the first time since 2012. (NFL Game Rewind)
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks haven’t met since Oct. 14, 2012.
The game was at CenturyLink field. The winning quarterback was a rookie just six starts into his NFL career. And the final score was 24-23, as the team that went 7-9 the year prior outlasted the one that went to the Super Bowl.
They’ll meet again in another on Feb. 1, 2015. But before they do, head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots will revisit the film from that Week 6 game two seasons ago, even though much has changed since then.
Rob Ninkovich left his mark on Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. (NFL Game Rewind)
Rob Ninkovich had a part in the New England Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts. It was each play.
The ninth-year defensive end was persistent against Colts tackle Joe Reitz, guard Lance Louis and quarterback Andrew Luck. And while that persistence seldom registered in the highlights of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, it registered elsewhere at Gillette Stadium.
In the backfield, in the flats, and in the score.
Duron Harmon’s fourth career interception transpired when the Patriots needed it Saturday. (NFL Game Rewind)
Few had read the name Duron Harmon until it appeared on the screen at pick No. 91 overall in the 2013 NFL draft. But the second-year pro, once projected as undrafted free agent coming out of Rutgers, has since made his name known in the New England Patriots’ secondary.
What he called “the biggest pick” of his life reaffirmed it.
Julian Edelman’s 51-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola evened the score on Saturday. (NFL Game Rewind)
Julian Edelman has been a wide receiver, a returner, a running back and a cornerback over his six years with the New England Patriots. But it wasn’t until Saturday night at Gillette Stadium that the 2009 seventh-round pick got to be what he was before.
With 4:28 remaining in the third quarter of Saturday night’s divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called upon Edelman to do what he did at the College of San Mateo and Kent State. He called upon the pass-catcher to to throw one for the first time in his 86 NFL games.
“We were saving it for whenever Coach McDaniels called it,” said Edelman during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Middays with MFB. “We’ve been working on it for a while, had it in the bag for probably half the season. We just never got the situation or the coverage we needed to get it called.”
Down seven on a 1st-and-10 from the 49-yard line, the situation was right for the Patriots.