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Detroit Lions 2018 roster review: LeGarrette Blount was uniquely inefficient with Lions

The Lions running game seemed rejuvinated in 2018, but when they struggled it was often with a veteran toting the rock.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the offseason for all but two teams, and one of those teams happens to be the Detroit Lions. In an effort to get you ready for free agency—which is now less than two months away—we’re going to review the Lions’ roster player-by-player.

We’ll start with the upcoming free agents in an effort to get an idea of what Detroit should do before those players hit the market. Then we’ll move onto the players under contract and see what their role may be going forward.

Today we start with running back LeGarrette Blount, whose future with the team is unknown.

LeGarrette Blount, RB

Expectations before 2018

Coming off back-to-back strong seasons on Super Bowl-winning teams, expectations were fairly high for Blount even entering age 32, the normal downslide for running backs. The team brought Blount in to help with the short-yardage woes that plagued the team in 2017. The team struggled to convert short-yardage situations in the worst possible way, and the idea was that Blount would be the battering ram to push for the 1 and 2-yard gains the team seemed incapable of getting with Tion Green, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick the year prior.

The selection of Kerryon Johnson in the second round after picking Frank Ragnow in the first signaled that the team was both dedicated to the run and planning for the future. If Blount was worn down and flubbed as a signing, the team had a talented rookie to lean upon, and on a one-year deal. they weren’t tied to an aging back long term so everything should have worked out just fine.

Actual role in 2018

2018 Stats: 154 carries for 418 yards (2.7 YPC) 5 TDs, 10 receptions for 67 yards
PFF Grade: 45.9 (63rd among RBs)

Except that it didn’t work out just fine, and Blount ran his way to a career low in yards per carry. We’ve already mentioned before about how terrible his efficiency was this season, rushing for fewer than 2.0 yards per carry in more than half of his games this season. The team was one of the worst in the NFL at converting third-and-short on the ground, ranking 27th in the NFL at that particular statistic.

Unlike previous years where the entire run game struggled to get things moving, this seemed entirely isolated to Blount. Kerryon Johnson was reaching prolific marks for efficiency before going down to injury. Theo Riddick reached a career milestone, rushing for over 4.0 YPC for the first time in his career (4.3 in 2018). Zach Zenner in a similar role also ran for a career high 4.8 YPC. With all of that, carries by Blount simply seemed to be wasted touches.

Outlook for 2019

Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent

Blount’s lack of efficiency wouldn’t normally make this a very difficult one to figure out. Not many running backs get another shot at 33, let alone one rushing for at the level he has. What adds a different layer of complexity to this one is that Blount wasn’t just brought in to cure the Lions short yardage woes—a role he did not succeed in—but he was brought in to help integrate the team to the expected culture of the Lions new head coach in Matt Patricia.

It’s unlikely that Blount would be brought back in a similar role in 2019, but the possibility remains that he is brought in simply to compete in camp and provide a level of leadership as the team continues to adjust to the new coach. This could be especially beneficial, at least in training camp, if for no reason other than helping the offense buy into whatever new scheme is brought in to replace the now departed Jim Bob Cooter.


Should the Lions bring back LeGarrette Blount?

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