The NFL is a “What have you done for me lately?” league and it seems fans are no different. After a mediocre 2011 season, Buccaneers fans and prognosticators alike have all but abandoned their perception of Blount as a long term option. With Trent Richardson a possible option with the #5 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, there is a growing consensus he would be the smarter option over Morris Claiborne. While perception is key, it doesn’t always tell the whole story. Here’s why you need to stay on the Blount band wagon.
The Buccaneers were bad last season in every aspect of the game. When your pass attack is anemic, there isn’t much to keep defenders from charging ahead. What made things worse, Raheem Morris was more committed to getting Josh Freeman into a rhythm. While it was the more important priority at the time, Blount was the one who suffered most by being neglected and kept from getting into his own rhythm. In 7 games last season, Blount touched the ball 11 or fewer times. During those games he never averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry. In the 7 games he touched the ball 12+ times, Blount only dipped below 4.1 yards per carry once. In fact, he averaged 5.1 YPC in 5 of those games to bring his season average to 4.2 yards per carry. That is only a .8 difference from his stellar 2010 campaign which saw him end the season with a 5.0 per carry average.
The Buccaneers just missed the playoffs in 2010 and Legarrette Blount was being praised from all angles. After a 2011 season which saw the team do poorly, the perception is Blount was just as bad. As stated above, he dipped marginally in yards per carry and only scored one time less (5) than his 2010 performance which saw him score 6 times. He even outperformed himself in a few areas as well. He bested his 2010 53 yard long carry with the 54 yard bulldozing against the Packers which earned him the Pizza Hut NFL play of the year for the 2011 season. Blount also made big strides in the pass game, jumping from 5 receptions for 14 yards to 15 receptions for 148 yards. That was good enough to average 9.9 yards per catch compared to his 2.8 yards per catch the season before. Had Blount received the same amount of carries last season as he did in his rookie year, he would have missed his 1,007 yard rushing campaign by only 154 yards. That’s based on his 4.2 average for the 2011 season. If we also factor in his uptick in production catching passes, he misses his overall production in 2010 by just 20 yards.
What is more eye opening is Legarrette Blount’s 5 yards per carry average in 2010. Mike Alstott, Warrick Dunn, Cadillac Williams and Buccaneer great James Wilder never had a season with the Bucs where they averaged 5.0 yards per carry. In his best season as a Buc (2000), Warrick Dunn needed 47 more carries to gain just 126 more yards than Blount’s 1,007 in 2010. Every one of the backs mentioned received a considerable amount of more carries en route to their 1,000+ seasons. Blount’s 4.6 career per carry average leads them all so far.
While it is only a small sample size, numbers don’t lie and stats are NOT for losers. Legarrette Blount did not do as poorly as the masses believe he did last season. Now he has a new coaching staff, veteran coaches, and will be playing in a system which won’t ignore the running game. Presuming he stays the lead back, the days of 10 or fewer carries should be over. Given his history, Blount will only excel under the new regime. If you jumped off, there’s still time to jump back on the Blount band wagon.