Is LeGarrette Blount A Player That The Lions Should Sign?
The Detroit Lions’ running game last year was not anything to get excited about. It hasn’t been anything to get excited about for years. The Lions haven’t had a formidable rushing attack in a long time, and they haven’t had a formidable lead back in a longer time. For years, Lions fans have watched as Matthew Stafford slings the ball around the field, creating one of the most dynamic passing attacks that Detroit fans have seen.
Through all of the excitement, we still remember Barry Sanders. Lions’ fans still remember those games, years ago, when running the football was a legitimate option. We remember when we wouldn’t scream at the TV when the Lions would run the football on third and one and gain no yardage. The Lions don’t have Barry Sanders anymore. They won’t ever have Barry Sanders again. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have an effective rushing attack.
Going into the draft, I thought that we would draft a power back. I thought we would take a bruiser that would be able to get us yardage between the tackles and convert in short yardage and goal line situations. Many others tended to agree with me. No Lions fan wants to see Matthew Mulligan catch a pass behind the line of scrimmage on fourth and short. The Lions’ front office did not seem as concerned as we did. This was either a vote of confidence for the backs on our roster, or it was confidence that we could find someone else. That someone else may very well be LeGarrette Blount.
What Do We Have Right Now?
I broke down the Detroit Lions’ backfield in an earlier article. The Lions have a lot of talent at the running back position. Ameer Abdullah could very well be the future of the Lions’ backfield. Theo Riddick is among the best, if not the best, receiving back in the NFL. Zach Zenner is a hard runner that gets up-field quickly and fights for every yard. Dwayne Washington is a physical specimen that, if his vision develops, could be a quality player on the depth chart. There is no shortage of actual talent on the Lions’ roster at the position.
Despite the talent, there are definitely holes and question marks that go along with these players. Abdullah was injured the majority of last year, and his rookie year was riddled with fumbles. Theo Riddick may be better suited as a receiver than a runner. Zenner suffered multiple injuries in his short career and may not have the tools to take on a significant workload. Washington may never develop into anything more than the unpolished product that he was last year.
The Lions are lacking depth in terms of a true, viable running back to hand the ball off to. Regardless of the skill set that LeGarrette Blount brings with him, another body at the running back position would be a welcome addition to the roster. Zenner is an excellent depth piece in terms of a guy that can fill in for a few carries. He performed admirably during his limited time last year. That doesn’t mean that we should hope to see another extended look at him this upcoming year. Ideally, we see him as a reserve to take a little work when guys are tired or shaken up.
Washington shouldn’t see the field unless he has developed significantly over the offseason. There are a lot of guys on this depth chart that we like, but we don’t really want to see get too many carries.
The Lions are missing that bruising back. They are missing the guy that you can feed the ball on fourth and one. They are missing the guy that can eat up the clock in the fourth quarter between-the-tackles. The Lions need a big, old-school style back that can handle those short yardage situations and take a beating.
The Lions added Tion Green as an undrafted free-agent. If they went into the season today, Green and Zenner would probably be sharing or fighting for that between-the-tackles role. Green has upside to play that role for the Lions, but he is unpolished and inexperienced. Green has to improve his game before he can be truly counted on in those clutch rushing situations.
Getting The Tough Yards
LeGarrette Blount is the missing piece of the puzzle. Ameer Abdullah is the speed back. Theo Riddick is the receiving back. The Detroit Lions need a power back, and LeGarrette Blount is the best on the market.
There has been a lot floating around on social media about yards after contact. There was a post by PFF comparing the yards after contact of Zenner, Riddick, and Blount. If you had never watched any of these players play a game of football, this would be a very misleading statistic.
As I referenced in my overview of the Detroit Lions’ running game, the Lions led the league in runs that were stuffed for no yards or a loss of yards. If a runner is hit three yards behind the line of scrimmage and then struggles through one defender to get back to the line of scrimmage, he notches three yards after contact. That is significantly more difficult than getting to the line and trying to gain three yards through the six defenders that are in the box.
Blount also has the disadvantage of being a short-yardage type of runner. He isn’t a guy that you ask to break off 30 yard runs. He is the guy that you trust to get you two when it is fourth and two. There should be no debate that Blount fights through contact better than Riddick. Riddick has always been a finesse runner. Blount will run right through defenders.
LeGarrette Blount is the security blanket. He could be the Anquan Boldin of the run game. LeGarrette Blount could be the guy that lets us breathe easy in short yardage situations, the way we could breathe easy in third down passing situations. He is another piece of the offensive puzzle that features a lot of well placed pieces without a lot of star-power.
Blount offers a veteran presence to a very young backfield. It is easy to lose track of these players ages after watching so many years of Lions football. Every one of our contributors last year was very young, and still very inexperienced. Blount brings experience. He may not have the attitude or leadership qualities that you look for in a veteran, but he has years under his belt, and that is something that can be valuable to a young group of backs.
Even if the Lions have complete faith in the guys that they have at running back, there is always a need for depth. We saw what injuries can do to a team last year. We saw how that can force an offense to play a new type of game. LeGarrette Blount is a back that can take some work off the other running backs’ plates. There is a role for him in Detroit, and he could be a valuable asset to the team. Even if he didn’t fill a specific niche for the Lions, he would provide depth and experience. Those are things that the Lions definitely could have used last year.