Josh McDaniels happy to have Dion Lewis back on the practice field

Josh McDaniels happy to have Dion Lewis back on the practice field

Dion Lewis remains on the physically unable to perform list, but the running back could be activated to New England's 53-man roster any time between now and the days leading up to its Week 11 contest against the 49ers. 

Lewis returned to practice on Oct. 27 -- the Thursday before the bye week -- opening a three-week window for the Patriots to activate him. If he's not activated during that span, he'll be placed on season-ending injured reserve. After signing tight end Matt Lengel last week, the Patriots have 53 players on their roster, meaning they would have to make room for Lewis if they were to add him to the active roster. 

After enduring two knee surgeries in the last year -- one last year to repair his torn ACL and one before the season to fix a patella fracture -- teammates and coaches alike have been pleased to see the dymanic all-purpose back return to the practice field. 

"Yeah, it’s great to have Dion around," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Monday. "Dion works extremely hard at anything he’s doing whether it was his rehab, his preparation for the opponent, periods in practice, whatever it might be, his role in the game plan. Dion does a great job of preparing hard. He comes here ready to work each day. He puts in a full day and really cares about doing things the right way.

"I’m always excited to have any of our guys back out there on the field with us. It’s the thing that we enjoying doing with them the most, working with them on the field. It’s been nice to have him out there and we look forward to his progression here as he works back into it."

Last season, the Patriots knew they had a unique talent at their disposal when Lewis was available. His quickness in and out of breaks made him arguably the toughest player to tackle in the NFL: His 43 missed tackles on 85 touches would have given him the highest "elusive rating" that Pro Football Focus ever recorded -- by a wide margin.

It's unclear how Lewis will factor into the Patriots offense whenever he is activated -- James White has filled in admirably as Lewis' replacement since the middle of last season -- and McDaniels explained that the Patriots will take a wait-and-see approach as Lewis gets more and more up to speed.

"I think our philosophy on that hasn’t really changed," McDaniels said. "I think when Bill and the medical people tell us it’s appropriate to put a player into certain periods, whatever those might be, whether that’s individual, team, seven-on-seven, whatever it might end up being, then you try to do that based on the schedule that they tell you, and then you let the player give us feedback on how he’s feeling and we’ll go from there.

"We always try to do the right thing for the player. The most important thing to us is the health of our guys and making sure that they’re ready. We’re going to do the right thing in that situation, and whenever it’s time, it’s time."

Search continues: Scarnecchia pops up at Notre Dame for look at McGlinchey

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Search continues: Scarnecchia pops up at Notre Dame for look at McGlinchey

The effort to replenish the tackle depth the Patriots boasted last year will not stop with the re-signing of LaAdrian Waddle. That much was clear when Dante Scarnecchia was spotted at Notre Dame's pro day on Thursday.

The Fighting Irish offense featured two of the top offensive linemen in the country last season in guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey.

Nelson is expected to be a top-10 selection and some believe him to be the best player in this year's class regardless of position. The Patriots probably won't have a shot at him. And they're OK at guard. Scarnecchia (and national scout DuJuan Daniels) were in all likelihood there to scout McGlinchey more thoroughly. 


The 6-foot-8, 312-pounder is considered by many to be the top tackle in this year's draft. McGlinchey spent two seasons on the right side, backing up current Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley, and he spent the last two seaons on the left. He's thought to be a very good athlete for his size, but he may have some issues with "bull rushers and power at the point of attack," according's Lance Zierlein. 

But even with the blemishes that may show up on his tape, McGlinchey could go in the top half of the first round if a team gets desperate. Or he could slide. It seems a slide to the Patriots would be unlikely but not impossible. That's why the Patriots did their due diligence on the player who may be the only NFL-ready tackle in the draft.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage made that very point on Quick Slants the Podcast soon after the NFL Scouting Combine finished up. 

"It's definitely become a challenge," Savage said of finding pro-ready tackles. "We've always focused and talked about how the spread offenses in college have affected the quarterbacks, but in reality, it's impacted all of the positions, quite frankly. 

"You look at the offensive line nowadays and most schools are building what I call a five-man unit where there's no real distinction between the left tackle versus the right tackle versus the right guard versus the left guard. They're all kind of the same because they play as a unit. There's not as much of a premium placed on that left tackle as a standalone pass-protector...

"This year, amazingly enough, I really only had one tackle [with a first-round grade following the combine, and that's [Notre Dame's] Mike McGlinchey. There's a couple of interior linemen like Will Hernandez from UTEP and Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame that are likely to go in the first round. But as far as just a tackle. Wow. It's staggering to think that there could only be really one tackle to go in the first round this year."

The Patriots have a variety of routes they could take in filling the left tackle void filled by Nate Solder. They could try to figure out a way to get McGlinchey in house. They could go with Waddle. They could flip Marcus Cannon to the left side and use Waddle on the right. Maybe a second-year player -- Antonio Garcia? Cole Croston? -- will surprise and force the team's hand.

Whatever they choose, the search for tackles isn't over. And given how difficult it seems to be for teams around the league to find serviceable ones, it could last a while.



Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

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Reports: Patriots among NFL teams taking a look at Manziel

Johnny Manziel said 10 days ago, "I'd go to New England in a heartbeat," when asked about the Patriots as a potential landing spot.

That seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but they're taking a look at him...along with 12 other NFL teams, according to ESPN's Eric Williams. 

Tom Brady's current backup Brian Hoyer is, like Manziel, an ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback. Manziel would again be competing with Hoyer for the Pats' No. 2 job should New England take a chance on "Johnny Football", the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems.

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman had it at 12 teams watching Manziel work out at the University of San Diego and said the Patriots gave Manziel a weigh-in.