Patriots

Belichick liked what he saw from Lewis in preseason opener

Belichick liked what he saw from Lewis in preseason opener

FOXBORO -- It would make sense for the Patriots to want to keep Dion Lewis under wraps this preseason. He's experienced a litany of devastating injuries over the course of his career. He's proven what he can do when fully healthy.

Why run him out there for an exhibition game? Better yet, why not manage him with the long-haul in mind, slowly working him back up to speed over the course of the season so that he's good to go when it matters most? 

The Patriots seemed to have no such plans for the pint-sized dynamo on Thursday as he carried seven times (second-most on the team) for 32 yards. He also saw five targets (third-most), catching four for 23 yards. He played 23 snaps against the Jaguars, tied for the most of any Patriots running back along with DJ Foster. 

About a year removed from knee surgery to repair a fractured patella, Lewis looked like the runner we saw in flashes last season. He was quick. He eluded defenders. He showed good hands. 

Bill Belichick liked what he saw.

"Dion's had a good spring and a good summer, worked very hard in the offseason program, got an opportunity to do some things last night," the Patriots coach said during a conference call on Friday. "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."

The workload Lewis took on could have been in some ways by necessity. Mike Gillislee is dealing with an injury and didn't play Thursday. Rex Burkhead and James White could have significant roles in the offense to start the season, and neither player participated Thursday. 

That left Lewis, Foster, Brandon Bolden and LeShun Daniels Jr. to shoulder things as the available running backs. 

For Lewis to handle his share without incident -- and while looking closer to the Dion Lewis of old in the process -- was a good development for the Patriots and their running back room. If he can remain healthy, Belichick and Josh McDaniels will have the ability to stress defenses with various combinations of their versatile backs on the field simultaneously.

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

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Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

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