Who let the Big Dog out?
Apparently Matt LaFleur. For the second straight week, veteran tight end Marcedes “Big Dog" Lewis caught three or more passes and had a catch percentage of 100%.
In Sunday’s 31-30 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Lewis was targeted three times and had 40 receiving yards, including a bruising catch and run where he refused to go down and gained 24 yards. It was a blue collar play by a blue collar player who has endeared himself to both his teammates and Packers fans alike since arriving in Green Bay.
Lewis arrived in 2018 as the under the radar signing of general manager Brian Gutekunst’s first free agent class. Fellow tight end Jimmy Graham was the splash signing of that group and many were excited to see what Rodgers could do with the former Saints and Seahawks star. Lewis was an afterthought as someone who would be an extra blocker and the third tight end.
Three years later, Graham is gone and wallowing in mediocrity as a Chicago Bear while Lewis is still in Green Bay chasing championships.
His stat sheet might not be fun to look at (he has caught just 49 passes in almost four seasons, with almost half coming this year alone) but there are things Lewis brings to the table that can’t be measured on a spreadsheet. In other words, he works his butt off in order to kick yours. He’s still contributing at age 37, which is very rare for a tight end, and that kind of longevity at such a physical position doesn’t happen by accident.
While he’s brought effort and toughness to the field, Lewis has also brought leadership off of it. Going into last season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was effusive in his praise of Lewis saying, “I trust him so much. I think he’s got such a great feel for the pulse of the locker room, what needs to be said and saying the right thing at the right time.” Clearly the rest of Lewis' teammates agree with Rodgers assessment as the tight end was voted one of three permanent offensive captains for 2021 alongside Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams.
That trust has not only grown, but it is also paying big dividends for Big Dog in 2021. With Robert Tonyan done for the season and Josiah Deguara still learning the ropes, Lewis has become a big and reliable target for Rodgers. Seven targets since the bye have resulted in seven receptions and some imposing YAC.
Known primarily for his skill as a blocker, Lewis getting more involved in the passing game has been a welcome surprise over the past couple games but perhaps we should have seen this coming.
Deguara has been improving but has found himself on the receiving end of Rodgers’ ire on more than one occasion and with Tyler Davis still working his way into a role on offense, that leaves Lewis. He already has his highest number of receptions since 2017, his final year in Jacksonville (24) and could finish with over 30 if the pace from the last couple games continues.
It is that versatility and dependability that makes Lewis so valuable to the Packers — not just due to the loss of Tonyan, but also because of the injuries that have decimated the offensive line. Having Lewis in as an extra blocker helps ease the pain of the revolving door that has been the line all season. It might not be a fun job in terms of setting a stat sheet on fire with big numbers, but it’s just as or perhaps even more important.
Father Time has shown no ability to slow Lewis down either. He played his first three seasons in Green Bay on three different one-year contracts before the Packers decided to lock him up this spring for both this season and next. The team can in theory get out of the second year following this season but why on earth would they want to?
Whatever the final amount Green Bay ends up paying Lewis for his services cannot be quantified in what he has brought to the team. He brought veteran leadership to the locker room as Gutekunst began to makeover the roster in 2018 and he’s been a reliable presence and sounding board for Rodgers. He has just been further proof that sometimes what seems like a small signing can have a big impact on the team.
Lewis’ name came up in NFL circles this week as someone who isn’t very fun to watch.
I beg your pardon? You don’t like seeing tight ends pancake guys younger and larger than them? You don’t like seeing a 37-year-old plow through tackles and throw defenders to the turf?
Sounds like you need some joy in your life. Maybe you should get a dog, A big one.