LeGarrette Blount's Departure No Problem for Patriots

James ChristensenContributor IJune 27, 2014

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19:  LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots runs the ball against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Acquired as an afterthought—in the minds of many fans anyway—on Day 3 of the 2013 NFL draft, LeGarrette Blount proved to be an important part of the New England Patriots' playoff run last season.

Blount won't be reprising that role in 2014. He signed a two-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. Don't expect Bill Belichick to lose any sleep of his departure, as there are multiple options to replace his role and production.


What Blount Brought

Blount's game was built on power, but he had more finesse than many give him credit for. As linebackers and cornerbacks readied themselves to receive a blow, he could occasionally dance around them for additional yardage.

But in the end, it was his brute strength and size against defenses that softened during the second half of games that made him so valuable to the Patriots offense. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, a full yard more than his yearly average.

Blount—despite his 250-pound frame—was a strong contributor on special teams as well, earning the top role as kickoff returner while averaging 29.1 yards per return.


How Patriots Will Replace Blount

Myriad options to replace Blount's production reside on the current Patriots roster, although nobody can truly duplicate his size or running style.

Stevan Ridley is the obvious first choice. He is a bruising runner between the tackles with just as much—if not more—ability than Blount to drag the pile and churn out extra yardage after contact. He is more decisive choosing a hole and rarely dances in the backfield.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11:  Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammates Matthew Slater #18 and James Develin #46 after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Divisional Playoff ga
Al Bello/Getty Images

Ridley's only problem is his well-documented fumbling issue. Belichick might commit to Ridley at the onset of 2014 season, but eight fumbles in two years puts the running back on a pretty short leash.

Shane Vereen and rookie James White also figure to receive some extra reps now that Blount has moved on to play for Pittsburgh. Their smaller frames don't make them prototypical inside runners, but their elusiveness and decisiveness make them real options as receivers or change-of-pace backs.

They also can both excel in the passing game, an area in which Blount didn't really excel. Whereas Blount caught only two of five balls thrown his way in 2014, Vereen himself caught 47 passes in just eight games. 

In short-yardage situations, Brandon Bolden and James Develin figure to compete with Ridley for playing time. Each can contribute in the passing game as a receiver or blocker if need be.

Experienced kick returners will be harder to find. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Devin McCourty all can play the role, but their importance to the team is too great to risk on kickoffs.

Second-year receiver Josh Boyce figures to have the job if he can hold it. He averaged 23.8 yards on nine returns in 2013, with a long of 41 yards. Rookies Jeremy Gallon and Roy Finch will give him competition in training camp.