Super Bowl LII Connections: Dion Lewis’ Long NFL Journey Began With Eagles

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Philadelphia Eagles running back Dion Lewis

Photo via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images

Long before he became a star for the New England Patriots, Dion Lewis got his start in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected the diminutive running back in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. And for two seasons, he performance matched fifth-round expectations, playing a prominent role on special teams as a kick returner but rarely seeing the field on offense.

Lewis wouldn’t reach his full potential for years.

After sitting out the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons, Lewis landed with the Patriots in 2015 and flashed for seven games before tearing his ACL. He returned midway through the 2016 campaign and played well in a lesser role, then began this season as a relative afterthought before finally emerging as New England’s lead back around Week 7.

From there, Lewis went on to become one of the Patriots’ most productive offensive players over the second half of the season and into the playoffs, helping lead them to Super Bowl LII. Their opponent? The team that drafted him.

Lewis is just one of several current Patriots players with Eagles connections, and vice versa. A quick look at the others:

Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola
Amendola’s stay in Philly was brief. An undrafted rookie in 2008, he spent the 2009 offseason with the Eagles, was released in final cuts and then spent two additional weeks on the practice squad before being signed by the St. Louis Rams.

Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe
The Eagles drafted Rowe in the second round in 2015, then shipped him to New England after just one season. Rowe struggled to pick up the Patriots’ defense at first, but when healthy, he’s spent most of the past two seasons as the Pats’ third cornerback. Rowe explained earlier this week how a text from Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins helped him adjust after the trade, which took place just days before the 2016 season began.

Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount
The boisterous, big-bodied back spent two stints with the Patriots, bookending a disastrous partial season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played in Super Bowls XLIX and LI for New England and last season set a franchise record with 18 rushing touchdowns, the most by any NFL player since Adrian Peterson scored 18 in 2009. Though he expressed a desire to return to the Patriots after his contract expired last spring, he remained unsigned for more than two months before ultimately joining the Eagles, whom he led in carries and rushing yards this season.

Eagles defensive end Chris Long
Long’s one season in New England was a success. He played the most snaps of any Patriots defensive end, and his drawn hold in Super Bowl LI helped the Pats complete their historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. The 32-year-old didn’t believe his role in Matt Patricia’s defense properly aligned with his skill set and desires, however, and chose not to re-sign once he hit free agency. He linked up with Philadelphia and became one of the Eagles’ most productive pass rushers, tallying five sacks this season and finishing tied for the team lead with 18 quarterback hits. Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted week said Long made the right call by leaving New England to seek a better opportunity.

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill
Many Patriots fans probably don’t remember Grugier-Hill, whom the Patriots drafted in the sixth round in 2016. He fell victim to final cuts before his rookie season and quickly was claimed by the Eagles, who have used him as a core special teamer over the past two seasons. The highlight of Grugier-Hill’s young career came when an injury to Jake Elliott forced him to fill in as the Eagles’ kicker for one game in November.

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