Since LeGarrette Blount flitted onto Bucs fans’ radars, there’s been nothing subtle about him. At 6’0 and nearly 250 pounds he’s hard to miss, and the manner in which he entered the league was just as unorthodox as the running style he employs on the field. After a fairly colorful start to his senior season at Oregon, Blount spent the rest of the year battling back on to the field before turning his attention to saving his once-promising draft stock.
Despite his best efforts to show NFL teams he was a good prospect, questions about “the punch” caused his draft stock to slide and a first-round caliber back went undrafted. It got stranger as Blount agreed in principle to enter camp with the 49ers before backing out and opting to sign as a rookie free agent with the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans clearly saw potential, but questions about his receiving and blitz pick-up skills lead them to try and stash LeGarrette away on their practice squad. That, is when an opportunistic Mark Dominik grabbed the rookie running back and brought him to Tampa where he became just the third undrafted rookie in NFL history to crack 1,000 yards.
What’s so impressive about LeGarrette Blount’s thousand yards is the brief time it took him to get them. Blount entered the season a ways down on the Bucs depth chart. His first real action came in a blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers when he gained 27 yards and a touchdown on six carries. At that time the Buccaneers ground game was abysmal, averaging less than two and a half yards per carry and lacking any edge whatsoever. In fact, that Pittsburgh game was so bad that Blount’s debut was one of the lone bright spots.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later when Blount really got a chance to show Bucs fans what he could do. In a tightly disputed game agaisnt the St. Louis Rams, Blount rolled to 72 yards on just 11 carries. The Bucs made a few changes in that game, injuries to the line forced the Bucs to shift Jeremy Zuttah to center and insert James Lee and Ted Larsen at tackle and guard. The new line, coupled with the attitude and downright angry running style of Blount helped the Bucs rushing attack look potent for the first time all season that day. It got Raheem Morris so fired up he ordained the Bucs the ‘NFC’s best team‘ after the game.
The next week Blount would roll for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in Arizona, racking up 257 yards and three scores total in the three weeks leading up to Raheem Morris finally naming him the starter.
It wasn’t until the Bucs’ ninth game, week 10, until Blount finally got his first NFL start. By that point Bucs fans had been clamoring for him to be named the starter for weeks, he was already taking most of the snaps and he had brought a level of toughness previously unseen to the Bucs running game and to the offense as whole.
It was, however, for the reasons the Titans wanted to stash Blount on the practice squad that he couldn’t start sooner. For all his talents with the ball in his hands, Blount was hardly a threat out of the backfield and Cadillac Williams was much better in protection. Still, even despite those “opportunity areas” Blount’s play forced the issue to the point that Morris had no choice but to start him.
That’s how good Blount was, he wasn’t even a complete back but he was still so good that Raheem Morris had to play him. Keep in mind, he was once considered a first round talent. You can see why as soon as he touches the ball. Blount mixes a rare combination of deceptive speed, brutal power and wow factor that few other backs can claim to have. Watch LeGarrete Blount hurdle a safety in the same play that he trucks a defensive end and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s too early to say LeGarrette Blount is special, but he certainly gives every indication he might be.
And he only got better after he became “the guy.” Over the last five weeks of the season Blount went over 100 yards three times, totaling 511 yards and a couple touchdowns. You can’t ask much more out of a rookie back than to average 100 yards per game the last five weeks of a season as you make a playoff run. That’s about as good as it gets.
On the season Blount finished with 201 carries, 1,007 yard and six touchdowns. That’s five per carry. The stats alone are impressive, especially when you consider Blount started seven games all season and still finished strong with over 1,000 yards and a solid average. But when you look at what Blount meant to the Bucs offense you can see why he’s the clear cut rookie of the year for the Bucs (and in my opinion the entire NFL). When LeGarrette Blount started to get significant carries in week seven, the Bucs ranked just 27th in the NFL in rushing averaging just 91 yards per game, 2.5 per carry, by the end of the season the Bucs ranked 8th.
How good was LeGarrette Blount? That’s the best I can quantify it. He took the Buccaneers rushing attack from 27th to 8th. Can anyone else wait for next year when he’s got a year under his belt and an entire season to brutalize opposing defenders?