“The crowd goes mild” was one of my favorite responses after news broke of the Patriots signing running back LeGarrette Blount. I think the deplorable offensive line play in 2015 is a large factor in the lack of excitement surrounding Blount.
We’ve covered that Blount gained yards at a roughly league-average rate when you account for defensive personnel, but I think that he gained that yardage despite the offensive linemen.
Football Perspective created a heat map for 2015 running backs with more than 100 carries in order to see how backs produced their yards. Do they break away for huge gains? Are they consistent 4-yard grinders? Do they ever lose yardage?
It turns out that Blount gains positive yardage at the highest rate in the league, which is surprising when you think of how bad the offensive line performed in 2015. Blount gained positive yards on 9% more plays than average, tied with Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls. Bengals RB Giovanni Bernard is the only other back to exceed 5% above average.
Blount also gains 2+, 3+, and 4+ yards at an above average rate, but 5+ and 6+ yards at a below average rate.
What this tells me is that Blount rarely had a clean lane into the second level and a lot of his rushes were the result of him slamming into the line and falling forward.
The Patriots have invested a lot of resources this offseason into improving the interior line, by trading for OG Jonathan Cooper and drafting OG Joe Thuney in the third round, and an obvious benefit would be better protection for QB Tom Brady.
Just don’t forget that an improved rushing attack will also make the Patriots play-action game more believable and will also serve to buy more time for Brady in the pocket.
Blount was getting back to the line of scrimmage more than any other rusher in the league. Hopefully the offensive line in 2016 can open holes in the defense to let Blount destroy the defensive backs in the second level.