During the NFL Draft last week the Patriots traded RB Jeff Demps (a silver medal sprinter in the London Olympics) and a seventh round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for
RB LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots and their fans were excited the team won the “Demps Sweepstakes” before last season to sign the silver medalist since…well, lets face it…who wouldn’t want an Olympic sprinter on their team? He most likely would have been used as a kick and punt returner instead of a traditional back, but I could have easily seen Bill Belichick use him in a Woodhead/Vereen fashion in the passing game. After being placed on IR last season and not playing a snap, Demps decided that he wanted to focus on track, which is his true passion. He is still interested in playing football, but he made it clear that track will come first, and Belichick is an “all or nothing” kind of guy. As disappointing as it is to see a talented runner leave the Pats, it was a great trade since he likely won’t play much if at all for the Buccaneers and the seventh round pick is junk change.
I have my doubts about LeGarrette Blount having an impact on the Pats, though. He has had documented attitude problems dating back to his days in college. Normally, Belichick likes taking risky troubled players and turning them into team players and stars like Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and Aqib Talib (ignoring the Albert Haynesworth and Ochocinco experiments), but Blount’s work ethic is the issue. When Blount first arrived to Tampa Bay he was fined over $15,000 for repeatedly showing up late for practice. He was late so often that the team had him sign up for a car service with a driver that would actually wake him up and drive him to the team facility in the morning, which worked for a few weeks until they cancelled the service figuring he was a big boy and could wake himself up. They had to re-order this service for him for 2010 and 2011. He apparently didn’t get enough sleep at night, even with the extra time sleeping in and making him late, because he would fall asleep during team meetings. If there’s one thing Belichick hates is a bad work ethic. The only thing he hates more may be…
Fumbles. This is probably the biggest issue standing between Blount having a significant role with the Patriots or even making a roster spot. In his two seasons as a starter for the Buccs, before Doug Martin started dropping jaws, Blount fumbled the ball NINE times. Of these nine times, he lost six of them. As Patriots fans we’ve all seen players get sent to the bench for fumbling the ball (Stevan Ridley being the most recent example), particularly if they fumbled in key game situations. Blount didn’t fumble once in the Buccaneers 4-2 start in 2011, but all of his fumbles bench-marked the team’s struggles as they lost 10 straight to end the season. If his fumbling becomes a problem again, Belichick won’t hesitate to send him straight to the bench, which could be difficult to leave on a team that has other talented running backs to take his place.
There are many upsides to signing Blount, however. In 2010 he averaged 5 yards per carry and rushed for over 1,000 yards. In his two seasons as the Buccs’s starter he has 11 TDs and is a little bigger than Ridley, so he has the ability to power through the line in tough yardage situations. He has proven his ability to jump over defenders (as seen in the picture on the left) and fight for extra yardage. The trade for him is clearly a low risk, high reward move for the Patriots. To answer my own question, Blount does deserve a roster spot because of his potential impact, but as long as it doesn’t cost another promising player a roster spot. If Blount makes the team, it could be second-year RB Brandon Bolden that gets the axe, which would be a shame since he showed some a lot of potential during the season before being suspended and falling to the bench. I’ll have to see how Blount performs at training camp and in the preseason before giving him my vote of confidence.
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