There was some talk that New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was on the roster bubble. I probably perpetuated some of the discussion. Tyler Gaffney could do the job, they (I) said. Let’s see if James White can run the ball.
Blount must have heard the conversation, or someone must have sat him down, because the player that ran against the Chicago Bears looked nothing like the back that looked disinterested and flat against the New Orleans Saints.
The Blount that carried the offense in week 2 of the preseason is a player that could be a feature back, one that back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could rely on until the return of Tom Brady.
That Blount was great. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), that Blount was the best running back in the whole league last week.
“There were no better outings at the running back position than LeGarrette Blount,” PFF’s Sam Monson writes, “who averaged 6.3 yards per carry, gained 51 of his 69 yards after contact and broke three tackles on his 11 carries.”
What’s just as impressive is the fact that if you remove his longest run of the day (21 yards), he still averaged 4.8 yards per carry. One big run didn’t skew his entire day, like it did for Tyler Gaffney in week 1 of the preseason (remove Gaffney’s 44-yard touchdown run and he averaged 2.5 yards per attempt).
Blount was running hard, he was decisive, and he was lowering his shoulder- all traits he didn’t display against the Saints.
This Blount is what the Patriots need if they plan on having more success on the ground than they did in 2015.
In other news, PFF also marked AJ Derby as the best tight end of week 2, making this the second consecutive week that the sophomore former-quarterback has been the best tight end of the preseason.
“New England has a pretty impressive TE stable to learn from, and so far this preseason Derby is showing he’s picked up a few things,” Monson writes. “He caught 86 percent of the passes sent his way this week at an average depth of target of 12 yards downfield, scoring a touchdown and notching 71 receiving yards.”
While Derby has yet to prove himself a consistent blocker, he’s shown that he could definitely be a Scott Chandler-type option in the offense as a receiving tight end. Derby would offer the Patriots some serious size advantage in the red zone and would allow the team to run their famous 4-tight end sets on the goal line alongside Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, and fullback James Develin.
Derby has done everything that he possibly can in order to win a roster spot. One more week at a high level will make him a lock.