Blount gets great opportunity with Ridley sidelined

10/4/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

No one ever doubted the talent of LeGarrette Blount during his days at Oregon. The bruising running back totaled over a thousand yards and 17 touchdowns on just 137 carries as a junior in 2008. However, a complete meltdown after his team's loss to Boise State in their season opener the following season prompted all 32 NFL teams to completely remove Blount from their draft boards. He went undrafted and was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a preseason stint with the Tennessee Titans.

As a rookie, Blount showed well on 11 carries in the Buccaneers' sixth game of the season, and he carried the load from there on out. Blount finished with 1,007 yards (5.0 YPC) and six touchdowns on 201 attempts. He was solid in his second season, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, but saw only 184 carries as a 14-game starter, then was phased out when Doug Martin arrived in 2012.

Blog Photo - Blount gets great opportunity with Ridley sidelinedBlount latched on with the New England Patriots for the 2013 season, but wasn't expected to see much playing time behind Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. With Ridley struggling mightily and Vereen on short-term injured reserve, however, Blount has been seeing some touches. He has gotten 23 carries over the past two games and has responded with 129 yards (5.6 YPC). Meanwhile, Ridley has ran the ball only 22 times over the past two weeks, totaling 88 yards (4.0 YPC).

Ridley missed practice all week with a mysterious lower thigh/knee issue, and on Friday afternoon the Patriots ruled out their No. 1 back for Week 5. That leaves Blount - who has outplayed Ridley so far this season - to take over the early-down role in the Patriots' backfield.

Though he will cede passing-down work to Bolden, Blount is likely to lead the Patriots in rushing attempts this weekend when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have a stout front seven, and with their top cornerback - Leon Hall - doubtful for Sunday, the Patriots very well may take a pass-heavy approach to this game. Blount should still be in for at least 15 carries, however, which would be more than he's gotten in any game this season. A good showing against one of the league's better run defenses could keep Ridley from leading this backfield in carries when he returns.

Blount's reputation gained from that incident against Boise State, along with his status as an undrafted free agent, seems to often have people doubting his ability. What I see when Blount gets playing time, however, is an explosive back who loves contact - he'll invite a defender to try and stand him up, then punish any defender who does. I think that Blount can be successful when given an opportunity, and he'll have his chance this weekend.
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