Through three weeks of the 2016 NFL season, New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount has a league-leading 75 carries for a league-leading 298 yards and a league-leading 4 rushing touchdowns.
He’s off to a great start.
Those 75 rushes mark the 2nd most carries through three weeks in Patriots history, trailing just 1997 Curtis Martin who received a whopping 87 carries (29 per game!). Martin is also in 3rd place with 66 carries (22 per game). In other words, Blount has seen some of the highest volume in franchise history thus far.
The Patriots have been leaning on Blount thanks to a combination of young quarterbacks, big leads, and the fact that he’s simply been very effective. In a stretch of five days (week 2 and week 3), Blount ran 53 times for 228 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. That represents a pair of performances that deserve plenty of accolades, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been willing to oblige.
“We really needed [Blount’s performance] in both games,” Belichick said on Monday. “LeGarrette has a lot of skill as we know. I mean he's a big back that has very good quickness, and feet, and balance and speed for that size. So, we just kind of always feel like if we can just get a hole, get him started, get him going that he has a lot of ability to make yards on his own if we can just get him going, get him downhill, and get him some space to run.
“He has done a good job with it. He has broken tackles. He has run through some arm tackles and things like that. He has gotten some good, tough yards for us. Hopefully we continue to do that. Hopefully we can continue to get him the ball with some momentum, some space, and give him an opportunity to do some things on his own and not have to deal with four or five guys there at the line of scrimmage but try to get him going.
“He has worked hard, he's in good condition, he has done a good job of gaining yards in the fourth quarter and at the end of the game. He hasn't gotten worn down in those situations so that's all been very positive and we needed it.”
The improved Patriots offensive line has certainly helped the rushing attack, but Blount has filled the role of “leading back” as well as anyone in the league. While I don’t think anyone should expect him to continue to play at such an involved level when QB Tom Brady returns from suspension, Blount’s 99.3 yards per game (YPG) is currently 3rd in Patriots history, behind 2004 Corey Dillon (109.0 YPG) and 1966 Jim Nance (104.1 YPG).
Even with a dip in production, Blount will continue to climb up the Patriots records books as one of the better rushers in franchise history.
Blount currently ranks 19th in career rushing yards in a Patriots uniform at 2,054. He could very easily crack the top 10 by the end of the year. In fact, it would a disappointment if he didn’t at this point.
18. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 2,064 yards
17. Steve Grogan, 2,176 yards
16. Carl Garrett, 2,235 yards
15. Mosi Tatupu, 2,415 yards
14. Laurence Maroney(!!!), 2,430 yards
13. Leonard Russell, 2,437 yards
12. Craig James, 2,469 yards
11. Antowain Smith, 2,781 yards
10. Stevan Ridley, 2,817 yards
9. Larry Garron, 2,981 yards
8. Corey Dillon, 3,180 yards
7. John Stephens, 3,249 yards
6. Don Calhoun, 3,391 yards
5. Kevin Faulk, 3,607 yards
4. Curtis Martin, 3,799 yards
3. Tony Collins, 4,647 yards
2. Jim Nance, 5,323 yards
1. Sam Cunningham, 5453 yards
If Blount continues at his current pace, he will rank 7th in the Patriots franchise history for rushing yards. If he averages 90 YPG, he will rank 8th; 80 YPG, he will rank 9th; 70 YPG, he will rank 10th; 60 YPG, he will still rank 10th; and 50 YPG he will rank 11th.
If Blount posts the 57.1 YPG he has averaged in a Patriots uniform, he will fall in between Smith and Ridley.
Blount already ranks 12th in rushing touchdowns and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him reach 8th place over the next two weeks. He’s extremely close to a bunched up part of the records book.
11. Laurence Maroney(!!!), 21 rushing TDs
10. Antowain Smith, 21 rushing TDs
9. Stevan Ridley, 22 rushing TDs
8. Don Calhoun, 23 rushing TDs
7. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 29 rushing TDs
6. Curtis Martin, 32 rushing TDs
5. Tony Collins, 32 rushing TDs
4. Steve Grogan, 35 rushing TDs
3. Corey Dillon, 37 rushing TDs
2. Sam Cunningham, 43 rushing TDs
1. Jim Nance, 45 rushing TDs
Blount already has four rushing touchdowns on the season, which puts him on pace for 21 on the year, which I greatly doubt will happen. The single season franchise record is 14 rushing touchdowns, accomplished by Curtin Martin in 1995 and 1996.
That number seems extremely low to me, but it seems extremely attainable. Blount is one of three players in Patriots history to have four rushing touchdowns over the first three games of the year, matching 1994 Marion Butts and 2005 Corey Dillon. Blount had three rushing touchdowns over the first three games in 2015 as well, making him the only player in Patriots history to have multiple seasons with 3+ rushing touchdowns over the first three games.
Meaningless, perhaps, but it shows that the Patriots like having Blount near the goal line.
Blount needs just four more rushing touchdowns to jump into 8th place and he’ll need 10 more to pass BJGE for 7th. If he picks up 15 rushing touchdowns on the year to set the Patriots record, he’ll still rank 7th- but if he picks up 16, he’ll enter a three-way tie for 5th, and 17 will make him the sole possessor.
The Patriots have needed Blount to step up this year and he has done so in a major way. If he keeps it up, he’ll have cast his name for consideration into the third tier of all time Patriots running backs.