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Why did Patriots promote RB Tyler Gaffney over Dion Lewis or Bishop Sankey?

Have luxury of time with Lewis. After opening the regular season on the PUP list, Lewis practiced for the first time Thursday. The team now has until Nov. 17 until it has to move Lewis to the 53-man roster, and the flexibility of being able to have him practice and not count against the roster is valuable. Furthermore, playing him Sunday against the Bills always seemed like a long shot after just two practices.

Gaffney a different type of back than Sankey. At 6-foot and 220 pounds, Gaffney offers more of a power option behind starter LeGarrette Blount that the Patriots don’t currently have on the roster. Meanwhile, Sankey has recently been working to get his weight down to the 208-pound range after the Titans had him bulked up to around 216 earlier this year. That is an indication the Patriots would like to see if Sankey can replicate some of the quickness he had shown in college at Washington, when he played closer to 205 pounds. Thus, the way the Patriots seem to envision Sankey’s style of play fitting into the offense appears to be more closely aligned with “passing backs” James White and D.J. Foster, where the Patriots currently have more depth.

Special teams a factor. In the preseason, Gaffney added some additional value on special-teams coverage and return units, which is always a factor when coach Bill Belichick makes out the 46-man game-day roster. He probably is ahead of Sankey from a special-teams perspective.

Future planning. While Gaffney clearly has won over some on the Patriots’ coaching staff with his work ethic in recent years while battling injuries, it’s also possible his stay on the 53-man roster isn’t a long one with Lewis’ return coming in the not-too-distant future. So perhaps the Patriots also considered that in the future it might be easier to get Gaffney cleared through waivers compared to someone like Sankey, a 2014 second-round pick. When the Patriots place a player on waivers, they lose an aspect of control because any team can claim the player. By keeping a player on the practice squad, the Patriots can always counter another team’s move to sign the player away if they feel strongly enough about retaining him.