LeGarrette Blount walked off LP Field before Monday night’s game was even over, but it’d be shocking to see similar insubordination from him with the New England Patriots.
The end of Blount’s short Pittsburgh Steelers tenure probably wasn’t surprising to those who only knew the running back from his days at Oregon and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he was the consummate teammate in New England last season. The team’s running back group was tight, and each member said multiple times that they didn’t care who received more carries, touchdowns or snaps.
It’s unclear what happened with Blount in Pittsburgh, especially since he seemed similarly close on — and off — the field with Steelers starter Le’Veon Bell, but his Thursday signing with the Patriots is low risk and very high reward.
The Patriots appear to have found a solid starter in former practice-squader Jonas Gray, but they had little depth behind the first-year pro before Blount re-joined the team on a reportedly incentive-laden contract worth only the veteran minimum. Brandon Bolden has received only one offensive snap since Stevan Ridley was placed on injured reserve last month, so it’s obvious the team doesn’t view him as on option to spell Gray.
Gray carried the ball 37 times Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, and he was spectacular throughout the game, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not reasonable to expect Gray to continue to take such a heavy workload, however, if the Patriots decide to go run heavy down the stretch, as they did last season.
So even if Blount gets five to 10 carries per game, it should be enough to keep Gray fresh and Blount happy. Blount didn’t carry the ball a single time against the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, and he received five carries for zero yards the previous week against the New York Jets.
Blount knows the Patriots’ system, he had an extremely productive and valuable season in 2013, and he appeared to improve under head coach Bill Belichick, who taught the running back to keep his pad level down. Blount also was a very well-liked teammate inside the Patriots’ locker room.
Blount also can take over the Patriots’ kick-return duties, which have been passed from Patrick Chung to Danny Amendola this season. Blount was great in that role last season, returning 17 kicks for 494 yards during the regular season.
Blount also adds a reliable body to the 2015 roster, since he signed a two-year deal with the Patriots. Bolden, Ridley and Shane Vereen all are free agents next offseason, which leaves just Gray and Tyler Gaffney as New England running backs signed through 2015.
Blount is the fourth veteran the Patriots have added midway through the season, joining linebackers Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas and defensive lineman Alan Branch. That shows Belichick isn’t done tinkering with his team — even with an 8-2 record — since depth always helps during a deep playoff run.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images