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Can LeGarrette Blount Be the Bell Cow in New England Patriots Offense?

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2015

LeGarrette Blount (29, left) is the most proven running back on the Patriots roster.
LeGarrette Blount (29, left) is the most proven running back on the Patriots roster.Associated Press

Running back LeGarrette Blount has been proving he can carry the load for an offense since before he joined the New England Patriots in 2013. Yet somehow, the 2015 season is the first time he's truly had the inside track to the No. 1 role in the Patriots' backfield.

With Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen out of the picture, Blount has a clear path to be the bell cow for the Patriots offense. He's earned that role in the past, and he appears poised to earn it once again in 2015. There are certain areas of Blount's game that may need some improvement—he's yet to prove he can be a consistent, reliable threat in the passing game.

When he's allowed to run with "Blount force trauma," though, he's hard to stop.

Blount has always done some of his best work as the game wears on. His numbers in the second half are better on a per-carry basis than in the first half. In particular, his best work has come when his team is trying to milk out the clock. When leading with less than four minutes to go, Blount has 55 carries for 344 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and five touchdowns to help put opponents away.

LeGarrette Blount's split stats, 2013-14
QuarterAttYdsYPATD1st down
1st933473.7522
2nd924114.5324
3rd562514.528
4th1136715.9931
1st half1857584.1846
2nd half1699225.51139
Source: NFL.com

The timeliness of his carries is one thing, but the style of his runs is another thing entirely.

Thanks to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Blount has learned to run with low pad level.

"Bill told me—he said the only thing I wasn't doing right was running with a lower pad level," Blount said after a 2014 playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts. "So, I changed that and I started breaking more tackles, started getting a lot of extra yardage after contact."

At 6'0" tall and 250 pounds, he is a bigger target than most running backs. When tackling a bigger back, low is the way to go. If Blount is running upright, it makes his legs much more susceptible to contact. By staying low, however, Blount's legs can churn forward through the contact.

His tackle-breaking ability is supported by the numbers. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Blount was hit in the backfield on 25.6 percent of his attempts, the 10th-highest percentage in the NFL. Despite that, he averaged 3.5 yards after contact per rush attempt, the second-highest in the league.

LeGarrette Blount's split stats, 2013-14
AttemptsAttYdsYPATD1st down
1 through 1027412434.51266
11 through 20623115.0412
21 through 30181267.037
Source: NFL.com

These figures all work in Blount's favor. He is a tough runner who wears down a defense over the course of a game, making it harder and harder for it to tackle him and making his own style of play more effective as the game wears on. 

Of course, there's one thing that's not working in Blount's favor: the fact that he plays for the Patriots.

There are a few other options available in the fold for the Patriots at running back. None of them offer Blount's experience or upside as a bell cow.

The Patriots could ask the likes of Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden to take some of the burden off of Blount, but unless Blount is injured, runs into (more) trouble off the field or begins fumbling, do not expect anyone else to be a candidate for more than 10 carries in a game. 

"I don't know who our No. 1 guy is," Blount said after a Patriots practice in June. "Sometimes we started the game (in 2014) with Shane (Vereen), sometimes we started the game with me, sometimes we started the game with Brandon (Bolden). I don't know who our No. 1 back is but I know I will work my butt off to try and maximize my chances of being that guy."

That being said, Blount has totaled fewer than 10 carries in seven of his past 20 games for the Patriots. With that in mind, there's no guarantee that Blount would even be able to maximize his traits of wearing down a defense. 

He has the skill set to be the bell cow for the Patriots offense. He also doesn't have much competition for that role. The only question is whether Blount will get the opportunity to be the driving force in the running game for an offense that typically likes to spread the wealth.

Unless otherwise noted, quotes obtained via team news release.

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