— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 29, 2016
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) September 29, 2016
Yeah, you read that right. LeGarrette Blount is the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. *flame emojis*
The guy’s been an animal this season. Through three games he’s rushed for 298YD, 99.3YPG, and 3TD, all NFL leading statistics. And if we’re being completely honest, he’s carried the Patriots thus far.
Despite Jimmy Garoppolo’s electric 5 1/2 quarters, Brissett’s solid play against Houston, and the defense being lockdown, Blount’s played the largest role. I don’t want to overreact to three games, but there’s a real chance that if he wasn’t out there, the Patriots would be 1-2 or 0-3.
Now, those of us who have seen him out there since 2013 already knew he’s got this kind of ability. We’ve seen him take games over and drive teams into the ground singlehandedly.
That being said, did any of us expect this in 2016?
If you ask me, I’d say no. Definitely not after seeing how last season ended.
Blount’s last five games of 2015 were horrible. After eating Washington alive in Week 9 (29CAR, 129YD, 1TD) he went 19CAR/66YD; 16CAR/56YD; 9CAR/27YD; 15CAR/54YD & 10CAR/53YD with zero touchdowns in the last four.
I’m not joking when I say I thought we might have seen the end of a productive LeGarrette Blount. The way he was playing wasn’t right. Instead of chipping away, chipping away, chipping away, and then breaking one, Blount was taking the handoff and falling down at the line of scrimmage almost every carry. It was pitiful.
the digression of legarrrette blount has been alarming
— Taylor McCloud (@tdmszn) December 6, 2015
Then he was placed on IR following a Week 14 hip injury, and it was at that moment that I pretty much gave up any hope of Blount being the bruising back he had been for years.
It sucks to say that but it’s true. How many times have you seen a running back drop in production, get shelved, and come back strong, all the while being over thirty years old? Not very many.
I guess Blount is different though, because he seems to be back and better than ever.
But what’s the secret behind it?
I’m not insinuating PED’s or anything crazy like that, but seriously, what’s going on? Even with Blount’s hip healing and the guy being at full health, this type of production isn’t just average. It’s really good.
So what’s happening?
Well, there’s a couple of things.
First, this offensive line is KILLING it. They’re defying odds. Coming into this season, we all thought the o-line would be the weakest link. Yet, they’re proving us wrong. And it’s because Dante Scarnecchia is back.
Under Bill Belichick, Scarnecchia served as the offensive line coach from 2000-2013. In those fourteen seasons, the team averaged 1,853YD/YR, a respectable number considering the fact the offense is so heavily based on the pass game.
However, following Scarnecchia’s retirement in 2013, the Patriots’ rush production took a severe hit. With new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, the team rushed for 1,727YD in 2014 and 1,404YD in 2015. 1,727 isn’t far off from Scarnecchia’s average (1,853) but in comparison to 2013 (2,065), the 2014 yardage was a blatant dip in production.
The Patriots won a Super Bowl in 2014, though, so let’s not look too much at that season. Instead, let’s look at last year. The team’s rushing yardage, 1,404YD, was terrible, almost 400 yards short of Scarnecchia’s 2000-2013 average. LeGarrette Blount only rushed for 703YD, and remember, for a portion of last season there were no receivers for Tom Brady to throw to. That’s when the run game should have stepped up, but it didn’t, and that wasn’t the worst part of DeGuglielmo’s 2015 offensive line. We all know how the AFC Championship Game went. Brady was hit 20+ times. The run game was completely shut down. It was an embarrassment, and ultimately the end of Deguglielmo’s time in New England. He was fired just days after losing to Denver, opening the door for Scarnecchia’s return.
But Scarnecchia isn’t the only reason there’s been a rushing renaissance in New England, because James Develin made his return too.
I know I made it seem like 2015 was entirely DeGuglielmo’s fault, but he was missing his fullback.
James Develin, the Brown graduate who played his way through the football ranks, was placed on injured reserve last season after breaking his leg in the preseason, and his absence left a huge hole in the offense. Develin playing wouldn’t have negated the abysmal line play, but it certainly would have helped.
Luckily, he’s back for 2016, and so far, the spike in production has been apparent.
I don’t know if his return alone can account for LeGarrette Blount’s hot start to the season, but I do know that the combination of Develin and Scarnecchia can. Getting both a fullback and seasoned offensive line coach back in the same season provides a huge boost, and Blount’s capitalized on it.
As was said earlier, he’s leading the league in yards, yards per game, touchdowns. And he’s on pace to rush for 1,589 yards. Obviously that’s probably not going to happen. Brady comes back next Sunday and the offense will return to the high-powered passing attack it’s been for years, but Blount will not be put away. At the end of the day, the Patriots’ number one goal is winning. If they need to use the ground game to bury a team, they will (Hi Indy), and knowing they’ve got a guy ready to carry the load back there is huge.