New Head Coach Greg Schiano made it clear when he took the job in Tampa Bay that the Buccaneers would be more physical and run the ball between the tackles with consistency.
The Buccaneers made it even more clear that they would run the rock more when they drafted Doug Martin in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft but, despite the decision to draft Martin, the Bucs already had a bruising running back on the roster in LaGarrette Blount.
Blount who, after rushing for over 1,000 yards just two seasons ago, found himself on the sidelines looking on as Martin continued to get the majority of the carries and eventually won the starting job.
So what happened to Blount and what is his role on this team?
The 6', 247-pound tailback, rushed for 1,007 yards back in 2010. He was the first Buc to rush for over 1,000 yards in a regular season since Cadillac Williams accomplished the feat back in 2005. In 2010, Blount was the workhorse of the offense, carrying the ball 201 times, rushing five yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns. He saw his numbers decrease last season as the season spiraled out of control for the Bucs, but he was still productive.
Last season, he carried the ball 184 times for 781 yards (4.2 per carry) and scored five touchdowns, showing that, when healthy, he was a solid tailback even though he lacked the ability to pass protect on third downs and forced the staff to find others that could block on passing downs.
Despite the productive two seasons, it doesn't seem to be enough for the new regime.
After the front office cleaned house and Greg Schiano and his staff were brought in, Blount has been primarily a spectator during games. After battling Martin all pre-season, Schiano made it clear that Martin would be the go-to running back, something that probably upset him a bit, though Blount denies this.
Here was a young man that had been the starter for two years and was now forced to second on the depth chart. Despite speculation, Blount has remained a team player but has barely sniffed the field and seems to be passed over even when the team needs a power runner on the field.
This year, Blount has just three carries for eight yards. While he missed some practices recently with a neck stinger, he has been cleared to play, has been practicing, but can't seem to convince the coaching staff he can get the job done.
So what is going on with Blount? Does the coaching staff not trust him enough? It is possible, but it wouldn't make much sense to add a player to the 53-man roster if he was not going to contribute.
Is he injured? Despite getting a precautionary MRI on his neck last week, he has been cleared to play and has been practicing with the team, so it is not likely that injury is holding him out.
Could it be a bad attitude being demoted that has the coaches not willing to put him out there? Blount has been a team player and has said all the right things but, even after the win against the Carolina Panthers, Blount was quick to leave the locker room, not waiting around to talk with the media. He could be a little upset, but it more likely comes down to his play on the field.
As mentioned before, Blount has not been a pass blocker throughout his brief career, taking him off the field. This allows other backs that can block and are better pass catching threats out of the backfield, like Martin and D.J. Ware, to get the carries and thus more playing time.
The ultimate solution to the Blount situation has two sides.
For one, it will be the coaching staff to determine how best to use the power back. Blount has speed, has proven he can hurdle people, and can carry the load. The coaches need to figure a way to utilize his skills, even if he is just a compliment back to Martin. On the flip side, Blount needs to realize his position on the roster but not sulk that he has been demoted and work hard to get on the field and to be the best teammate he can be for a team that is in transition.
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