A recent article by Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times addresses the perceived lack of production by LeGarrette Blount in short yardage situations. A few other recent reports have stated that the Bucs are disappointed with his production in these instances. This was most evident in the first meeting with the Falcons, when he tried to bounce the 4th and 1 play outside, when the hole was inside. This has sparked some talk within the organization of going back to Earnest Graham for those situations. While I would like to see Blount become a complete back, I don’t feel this is a horrible change.
I don’t want to take anything away from the incredible year Blount has had. He has been nominated for his third Rookie of the Week award and has almost single handedly created a legitimate rushing attack for the offense this season. He has displayed incredible combinations of elusiveness and power while moving the pile forward to gain the extra yard at the end of runs. Short yardage runs are different in the NFL, though, as the amount of mass of the entire pile of the inner line is hard for one man to move solely by running into it hard and churning the legs.
Quite a few football fans and many other media members feel that the bigger the back, the better they will be in short yardage situations. This is why every time you watch a Giants game, some announcer will talk about how they cannot believe that Brandon Jacobs is a somewhat disappointing short yardage back. Smith, in accordance with an unwritten journalism rule, points out Blount‘s size when talking about him in the article.
Despite being a big, bruising back (6-foot, 247 pounds), Blount has had trouble finishing off 3rd-and-1s or 4th-and-1 type plays, including against the Falcons. Blount says he’s open to changing how he approaches those carries, feeling as though he can handle those opportunities.
The problem is that if this is your reasoning, Blount isn’t even the biggest back in his own backfield. Josh Freeman is taller (6-6) and weighs more (248), and this may be a light listing for his weight. Former Bucs tight end Dave Moore preaches quarterback sneaks constantly on the radio broadcasts when the Bucs get in very short yardage situations. I agree with him that this is the best play call for the Bucs. When you have a big strong quarterback, it is the surest way to get the yardage needed. If the defense completely loads up over the center, then you change the play to a hand off to the back to a weaker area.
The second point is about Blount‘s attitude or the way he approaches the hole. While I think Blount should hit the hole the play is designed for at full speed (which he does not always do), this is not a guarantee that he will make it a yard. There is an element of hitting the hole at full speed and being able to lean or twist in the opposite direction of the first contact. Graham does this very well, and thus is better at the short yardage runs. I don’t think it is a bad thing to utilize him in these situations, and Blount will continue to improve with practice and experience to eventually take over this role.