Dion Lewis, James White raise the bar in Patriots' passing back competition

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the best examples of competition bringing out the best in football players came in the New England Patriots' 26-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.

Through the first drive of the third quarter, Dion Lewis played 23 offensive snaps as he made his case to be considered the top option to replace Shane Vereen as the team's top "passing back." His combination of blitz pickup, pass-catching ability, knack for picking up yardage after the catch, and determination in the red zone (11-yard touchdown run) was impressive.

Up to that point in the game, Lewis' primary competition for the job, James White, had played three snaps. All three of those snaps came out of the "pony" grouping in which he was on the field at the same time as Lewis.

So Saturday was Lewis' time to shine, as it was his preseason debut.

"I thought Dion did a good job with his opportunities," coach Bill Belichick said in his day-after-game conference call. "He's had a solid spring and camp for us. He missed a few days there [because of injury], but I thought he ran well [Saturday] night."

As it turned out, White did too.

Essentially taking over for Lewis from the second drive of the third quarter until the end of the game (the two were on the field together six snaps after that point), it was almost as if White felt the urgency to match Lewis.

That was what stood out most to me when reviewing the offensive snap counts from the game; how the competition between the two has raised the bar at a critical position in the Patriots' offense.


James White -- 31 of 79

Dion Lewis -- 29 of 79

LeGarrette Blount -- 18 of 79

Jonas Gray -- 9 of 79

James Develin (FB) -- 8 of 79


Brandon Gibson -- 74 of 79

Chris Harper -- 73 of 79

Jonathan Krause -- 51 of 79

Danny Amendola -- 7 of 79

Zach D'Orazio -- 4 of 79


Jimmy Garoppolo -- 70 of 79

Tom Brady -- 9 of 79


OT/TE Cameron Fleming -- 67 of 79

G Tre' Jackson -- 54 of 79

G Shaq Mason -- 50 of 79

C/G Josh Kline -- 42 of 79

G Ryan Groy -- 41 of 79

OT Chris Martin -- 41 of 79

C David Andrews -- 38 of 79

LT Nate Solder -- 38 of 79

G/T Chris Barker -- 24 of 79

RT Sebastian Vollmer -- 9 of 79

OT Mark Asper -- 6 of 79


Asante Cleveland -- 36 of 79

Jimmay Mundine -- 24 of 79

Michael Hoomanawanui -- 16 of 79