It may not have been the path he envisioned taking, but LeGarrette Blount‘s NFL dreams seem to be back on track. After making a satisfying, yet brief debut for the Buccaneers last week against the Steelers the rookie running back will see an increased role in the Buccaneers offense.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said today that Blount would become the teams new short yardage and goal-line back as the Bucs enter the bye week looking for ways to improve their rushing attack. The Buccaneers rank just 21st in the league in rushing yardage, something that must improve in order for the Bucs offense to find any degree of success this season.
While Raheem Morris was quick to point out that this move is in now way a shot at the incumbent starter, Cadillac Williams, it’s obvious that at his current production Williams isn’t going to be able to shoulder the Bucs’ rushing attack. Through the first two games, Cadillac is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry. As Morris said yesterday:
“It’s not time for wholesale panic where you start changing the position, because I think Cadillac has played three good games. But he can do better, and we have to give him (a) blow. We can’t give him 28 straight carries, so someone’s got to come in and give us a spark. Someone’s got to come in and make somebody miss and break off a long run.”
In Raheem Morris’ estimation the problem is hardly just Cadillac’s. A lot of the blame lies with with offensive line, a unit that has struggled to open holds in addition to committing a few extra penalties than the Buccaneers would like to see.
“We have to clean up some of those holds that are being called,” Morris said. “We have to do a better job of coaching, and that’s something we talked about (on Monday). How do we clean that up? Those calls weren’t called years ago. But that’s where we are now, so we have to coach it up better and have more emphasis in practice on getting our hands inside and not getting caught with our hands outside. And the next part of after that is getting (Blount and Huggins) more playing time, because (Sunday) was not the script you want to follow. We had 21 rushes and that’s not enough. We have to get up to 30.”
Fortunately for the Bucs, Blount is well-purposed to be a short-yardage back. At 6’0, nearly 250 pounds he combines decent speed with absolutely monstrous power. The Bucs hope Blount will be a sure thing when they need someone to pick up that third-and-short or a touchdown inside the five. However, getting to this point has been anything but a sure thing for Blount.
Never short on physical ability, Blount first struggled to become academically eligible for college. Committed to Auburn out of high school, he failed to qualify and instead enrolled at East Mississippi Community College. After two years of dominating the JC scene, Blount was again highly sought after and initially seemed poised to head to Florida State before changing his mind and heading to Oregon.
In Eugene, Blount split carries his Junior year with Jeremiah Johnson (now of the Houston Texans). Though both surpassed 1,000 yards and Blount set an Oregon record with 17 TD’s, tension mounted between former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and Blount, culminating in an “indefinite suspension” for a “failure to fulfill team obligations.” Chip Kelly replaced Bellotti the following season and reinstated Blount. Unfortunately, that was just weeks before the ugly Boise State incident which cost Blount his draft stock and most of his senior season.
Truth be told LeGarrette Blount has ability worthy of a first or second round draft pick. He was on the preseason Doak Walker and Walter Camp watch lists in 2009, then he lost his cool and socked a Boise State Bronco in the face after a difficult loss in September. And in literally the time it took for that goofy (and extremely deserving) kid to take a fist to the face, make a goofy expression and crumble to the ground, Blount’s draft stock evaporated.
He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with Tennessee. Unfortunately for Blount, LenDale White had probably used up all the good will the Titans had for troubled running backs and the Titans waived Blount during the pre-season. The Bucs quickly gobbled up Blount and started letting him learn the offense.
“I’m not 100-percent comfortable with the offense yet, and they’re not going to take a chance with that,” he said. “They’ve got a quarterback here that they don’t need to be getting hit, so I just have to be patient.”
But that patience has paid off. In Blount’s first appearance he had bursts of eight and 12 yards on his way to six carries for 27 yards and a touchdown against a top-tier defense. Those are modest numbers, but well earned. Now the Bucs look to their bye week to prepare their talented young tailback for his new duties as the Buccaneers’ short yardage back. The sky is literally the limit for the Bucs’ talented rookie. And even though it may not have been the path he would have chosen, Blount is still in the NFL ready to excel as a runner in just his rookie year. Proof that in this league, if you work hard enough, the cream rises.