FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The "passing back" role in the New England Patriots' offense is vital, and Dion Lewis was filling it well prior to tearing his left ACL in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Washington Redskins.
So where do the Patriots go from here? The offensive approach won't change; they will just plug in new personnel.
James White, a 2014 fourth-round draft choice out of Wisconsin, is the top candidate for an expanded role. White was a healthy scratch Sunday, but he was the top option when Lewis was sidelined in the team's Oct. 25 win over the New York Jets, playing a season-high 43 snaps in that game. Bill Belichick has expressed his confidence in 5-foot-10, 205-pound White being able to handle the role.
Also, four-year veteran Brandon Bolden could factor into the mix, as he did in Sunday's win. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound Bolden isn't as quick and shifty as Lewis and White, but he has experience in the system, is a capable pass-protector and has solid hands as evidenced by his 18-yard touchdown catch Sunday.
Another option the Patriots might consider for depth is re-signing free agent Travaris Cadet, who was with the team throughout the offseason, preseason and through the third week of the regular season before being released Sept. 29. Cadet, formerly of the Saints, was in a three-way competition for the team's pass-catching running back role with Lewis and White, and after making the initial roster, he was ultimately edged out of a roster spot. Cadet's background with the Patriots makes him the most likely free-agent candidate if the team wants to add depth alongside White, Bolden and top power back LeGarrette Blount.
However it unfolds, it's a drop-off for the Patriots based on the dynamic play of Lewis, who had been a spark plug for the offense as a rusher and pass-catcher, and was also solid in pass protection.