New England Patriots fans, there’s still time to jump on the Ryan Lewis bandwagon. The only condition is you can’t deboard until September.
This is where I would make a Macklemore reference if I was more hip. Or maybe less hip?
But the Ryan Lewis we’re discussing is not a DJ. He’s a Patriots cornerback who spent most of the 2017 season on the team’s practice squad. And there’s evidence to support the Patriots really, really like him.
Some background: Lewis, 23, went undrafted out of Pittsburgh and originally signed with the Arizona Cardinals last May. He was waived out of training camp and signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad Sept. 3. Arizona cut him Sept. 12, and the New England scooped him up onto its practice squad the next day.
The Buffalo Bills actually tried to sign Lewis off the Patriots’ practice squad and onto their 53-man roster, but New England convinced him to stick around by increasing his salary to that of an active player. Lewis spent the rest of the season on the Patriots’ practice squad, and it’s not known if another team tried to acquire him at any other point.
Lewis also won a team honor called Patriot of the Year after the season. It’s not exactly clear how significant that is, but it at least seems to bode well for Lewis’ future.
So, why do the Patriots like Lewis so much? His athleticism surely helps.
Lewis ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at his pro day last March with a 6.87-second 3-cone, 35-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump and 4.34-second short shuttle at 5-foot-11, 192 pounds. The Patriots like cornerbacks who run sub-4.5-second 40s and sub 7-second 3-cones.
Lewis also played well last preseason with the Cardinals, albeit in limited action. He let up just four catches on nine targets for 17 yards and a touchdown with one pass breakup. He showcased solid tackling and an ability prevent yards after catch.
As a senior at Pitt, Lewis let up 52 catches on 92 targets for 757 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
He’s the son of former NFL cornerback and front office executive Will Lewis. His cousin is former NFL safety and front office executive (and current ESPN analyst) Louis Riddick.
Lewis didn’t have last summer to compete for a role on the Patriots. That changes this offseason, and it will be interesting to see if he can put his athleticism to use on the field. There’s certainly an open door to Lewis making the Patriots in 2018.
New England currently has Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Lewis and Jomal Wiltz on its cornerback depth chart. Jonathan Jones is coming off a foot injury, and Cyrus Jones missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL after struggling as a rookie in 2016. McCourty is the only cornerback the Patriots have added this offseason.
If New England takes a cornerback high in the 2018 NFL Draft, then Lewis’ chances of cracking the roster decrease. But as of now, Lewis is an intriguing prospect to watch in organized team activities, minicamp and training camp.