He hits the hole hard. He runs hard. He delivers punishment to defenders in an even harder, more physical manner. He gives the running game a huge pick-me-up and can charge up an entire offense. Barring a boneheaded penalty last week, he would've had the Buccaneers' first 100+ yard rushing game in (whatever time it is.....let's just say way, way too long a time).
So why isn't LeGarrette Blount getting the ball regularly as a featured running back? Because it just takes one play. One bad play can leave a promising season in shambles and a team in turmoil.
Take, for instance, the Dallas Cowboys. Already reeling at 1-4 and facing a hot New York Giants team in a primetime game they had to have, the Dallas Cowboys trotted rookie FB Chris Gronkowski onto the field. As fate would have it, Gronkowski missed what was an apparently elementary blocking assignment, which resulted in NYG linebacker Michael Boley charging through the middle and delivering a WWF-ish spear on Tony Romo, breaking his collarbone and whatever chances the Cowboys had at winning the game and salvaging their 2010 season. The Cowboys were clearly bent with Gronkowski on the gaffe even though he's a learning rookie. He was listed as inactive for today's game against the Jags despite being healthy.
Look, LeGarrette Blount really gives you what you want in the running game. He runs through initial contact. He's finding holes in the first and second level. He falls forward and gets the extra yard. He pushes the pile. He does many things as a rookie that the veteran Cadillac Williams isn't able to do right now with the ball. However, it's that word "rookie" that makes all the difference. The NFL is another animal from college ball, both in the speed of the game and in the complexity and depth of defensive systems and schemes. It takes time to learn both basic NFL defensive systems AND your teams playbook and pass protection schemes. Cadillac and Earnest Graham both have been here and in the league long enough to be able to recognize blitzes and pickup responsibilities as second nature. That's why they stay on the field and are so useful in this pass-oriented offense. Sure, rookies have come into the league and started as a featured back from day one, but LeGarrette's day one with the team started during the season, so he's having to learn on the fly instead of having a rookie camp/training camp/preseason to get up to speed.
So, I'm going to believe in what our coaches are doing right now with his running backs and, hopefully, we will see LeGarrette develop and start to see regular playing time on both running plays and passing downs. That would mean he's starting to catch onto the playbook and that he's done enough at practice to earn the coaches' confidence that he can go out there and help this patchwork offensive line keep Josh Freeman healthy and productive.
Because it only takes one mistake to wreck a season. Just give Chris Gronkowski a call. Right now, as his team plays, he just might answer.