Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount has made strides in three key areas this offseason – catching the ball, pass protection and ball security – and fully plans on hanging on to the starting halfback job. Blount wants to return to being a 1,000-yard rusher this season.
As the Buccaneers wrapped up the 2012 offseason program with their three-day mandatory mini-camp, it’s time to shatter some myths regarding Tampa Bay running back LeGarrette Blount and his role in the offense for the upcoming year.
Has 2012 first-round draft pick Doug Martin overtaken Blount as the starting halfback?
Blount has been taking the majority of the first-team reps throughout the OTAs (organized team activities) and the three-day mandatory mini-camp with Martin being worked in with the starters occasionally, along with other running backs Mossis Madu and Michael Smith, the team’s seventh-round draft pick this year.
Is there any friction between Martin and Blount, who was widely quoted in the media for saying that he didn’t want the team to draft Alabama running back Trent Richardson in the first round?
Blount and Martin have been getting along just fine and there isn’t any animosity, or chemistry issues at One Buccaneer Place.
“Everyone helps everyone,” Blount said. “Everyone gets along. If anybody needs anything on or off the field, everybody accommodates everybody. The room gets along real well.”
Another myth is that Blount can’t pick up the blitz and he isn’t a candidate to see the field on passing downs.
“I’ve been working on pass protection and picking up the blitzes this offseason,” Blount said. “That’s the thing I’ve been working on the most. I can say that’s what I’ve improved on the most.”
Buccaneers running backs coach Earnest Byner told the media on Monday that he has had no issues with Blount in the passing game and that he has done everything that has been asked of him.
Another myth worth busting is the fact that Blount doesn’t have good hands and can’t be used as a receiver in Tampa Bay’s offense. While Martin was drafted in part for his hands and his prowess in pass protection, Blount is eager to prove that he has underrated skills as a pass-catcher.
“It’s definitely underrated,” Blount said. “I’ve shown people I can catch the ball, obviously. I’m hoping to be able to catch the ball a lot more this year.”
As a rookie, Blount caught just five passes for 14 yards (2.8 avg.) but made strides in 2011 by catching 15 balls for 148 yards (9.9 avg.). In two seasons at Oregon, Blount only had four receptions for 15 yards in his college career. While his production in the passing game has been limited thus far, Blount received a ton of work catching the ball and has made great strides.
“I haven’t dropped any passes this offseason,” Blount said. “Also, when we have special teams groups I go over with the receivers and the quarterbacks and catch extra [passes]. That’s another thing that has helped me. I’m looking forward to doing more as a receiver.”
Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano thought Blount shined as a receiver during the offseason.
“I thought he did a pretty good job just watching what I saw on tape,” Schiano said. “Does he have good hands? His hands are fine. I don’t know how that will translate into our game plan, but he can catch the football. That’s a plus.”
The final myth that has dogged Blount is the perception that he is a fumbler. In 385 NFL carries, he has fumbled the ball nine times, losing six of those to opposing defenses. While that is losing a fumble only once for every 64 carries, it’s still too much for Schiano, who has preached ball security and made every player that touches the ball carry it with the “high and tight grip.”
Blount has embraced the “high and tight” approach and believes it will help him prevent fumbles.
“It’s become a habit,” Blount said. “I don’t even notice that I do it most of the time now. Holding the ball down [low] is kind of uncomfortable now. He doesn’t lie to us. He said if you do it long enough you don’t notice it. If that’s all you do every time you are at practice with a ball in your hand you can’t help but make it a habit.
“Anytime I have a football in my hand, it doesn’t matter if I am walking through the mall, it’s a habit. I’m always going to have it up here.”
The third-year running back said that the new coaching staff has really emphasized fundamentals, such as the proper way to carry the football, and that it was a change that was needed for this young Buccaneers football team.
“You have to because it’s overlooked,” Blount said. “You come in here after leaving college and a lot of these guys are the best players on their team so they don’t have to worry about fundamentals and carrying the football correctly or catching the ball the right way. [Coach Schiano] has brought it back. We have our own individual period for ball security and stuff like that. You definitely have to learn it again.”
Blount was one of a handful of Buccaneers players in attendance at Schiano’s initial press conference in January at One Buccaneer Place and heard him say how much he favors a ground-oriented rushing attack.
“He loves running the ball,” Blount said of Schiano. “He stresses that. He’s going to definitely run the football. I don’t know how the carries are going to be divided or anything. I feel like everybody is going to have their chance to get their carries in and do what they can do with the football.”
After rushing for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry as a rookie, Blount’s production dipped last season to just 781 yards and five touchdowns with a 4.2 average. Blount admitted that he wants to get back to being a 1,000-yard rusher.
“Everybody has personal goals, and they are kind of secondary to what is our major goal, which is to win games and win a Super Bowl,” Blount said. “I feel like that is any running back’s personal goal. Am I trying to work towards that? Yeah. All of this that we are doing now is kind of setting me for a 1,000-yard season or whoever else to have a 1,000-yard season. We’ll see what happens when the season starts.”
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.