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Does Dion Lewis' extended workload mean his roster spot isn't safe?

Patriots running back Dion Lewis finished with 32 yards on seven carries and added four catches for 23 yards in the preseason opener. David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Every Saturday, one hot-button topic will be highlighted in the form of a mailbag question:


With the New England Patriots sitting most of their top players in the preseason opener, and running back Dion Lewis totaling 24 snaps (more than any running back), it sparked several questions from followers on what that means for Lewis' chances to be on the 53-man roster.

I had Lewis as a lock heading into training camp. My opinion hasn't changed based on Thursday night.

When I re-watched the game, I highlighted one play in my notes -- a 12-yard run with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining in the second quarter -- and wrote the following next to it: "The old Dion is back."

What stood out to me watching the game was Lewis' ability to make an initial tackler miss and create yardage after the catch. He finished with 32 yards on seven carries (4.6 average) and added four catches for 23 yards (5.8 average).

I viewed his extended workload as a sign that he is behind Mike Gillislee (slowed by a hamstring injury), Rex Burkhead and James White on the depth chart and that coaches thought there was a benefit to giving him extra work as he works to get back to his 2015 form. As Lewis has said, last year was a challenging one for him because of his previously injured knee and not having OTAs or training camp to build a base.

When coach Bill Belichick was asked about Lewis in his day-after-game news conference, this is what he said: "Dion's had a good spring and a good summer, worked very hard in the offseason program, got an opportunity to do some things [Thursday] night. I thought he was very competitive, made some plays in the running game and in the passing game. Just overall an opportunity for backs to just sharpen up their skills, their run reads, getting tackled, dealing with contact, making those quick decisions with the ball in their hands that you practice in practice, but we all know it’s not quite the same as game situations, especially the tackling and contact part of it. I think it's good for those guys to get used to that, so the first one isn’t in a regular-season game and they're not used to it. Hopefully, this will help to break them into that."

As we go deeper into the preseason, it would make sense the Patriots rotate their backs, so those who didn't see action Thursday night (Gillislee, Burkhead) get more action as long as they are physically ready for it. That's also why I am not reading much into Lewis' extended workload in the opener.