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New England Patriots: LeGarrette Blount Turning Out to Be a Big Steal

Big Running Back Has Been a Quiet Bargain

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY| When running back LeGarrette Blount was acquired in a trade this past offseason by the New England Patriots, it was just one of many moves to get ready for the season. Now that the team has started out 4-1, and players have assumed specific roles, it has become clear the transaction was a big steal.

Back in April, the Patriots traded kick returner Jeff Demps (who never took a regular season snap with them) and a seventh-round pick in this year's draft for Blount.

With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden already in the New England backfield, the deal made few waves. It was really about two teams swapping players who had fallen out of favor with their former organizations. Demps had been focusing on a track career, while Blount allegedly developed a lot of bad work habits.

Blount spent the previous three seasons with Tampa Bay following a controversial end to his college career at Oregon.

After rushing for 1,007 yards and six touchdowns during his rookie year in 2010, his production has fallen off each season since.

During this preseason, it was even touch and go whether or not he would make the Patriots. With holes at other positions, the 26-year-old could have been a casualty because the team felt it could sacrifice at running back to shore up others areas of need.

Blount's strong play earned him his roster spot as a backup. Additionally, his 250-pound frame was something no other back on the team could provide.

He played sparingly during the first two games of the regular, totaling just 26 yards on 11 carries. However, he has come on strongly since, as an injury to Vereen, the primary backup, opened up some carries for him.

He rushed for 65 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Week 3 win, and then went for 64 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the Week 4 victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

Blount got a big opportunity in Week 5 against the Cincinnati Bengals, as Ridley, the starter, was unable to play because of a knee injury. Although he coughed up a fumble, he was one of the more effective players on offense, rushing for a team-high 51 yards on 12 carries in a 13-6 loss.

For the season, he leads the team with 206 rushing yards and an impressive average of 4.6 yards-per-carry. He is not putting up star numbers, but has been very solid. This has been a great help, since Ridley, Vereen and Bolden have all missed time this year with injuries.

Blount has even served double duty as a return man on kickoffs. Despite his large frame that is more befitting a linebacker, he has averaged a respectable 21.0 yards on returns, with a long of 25.

Perhaps the trade was a wake-up call for Blount. He has been a model citizen and outspoken in expressing his desire to work and be a team player. He told The Boston Globe's Michael Whitmer, "Whatever they need me to do, I'm going to do it. No matter if it's in the third quarter or the fourth quarter, if they need me to close the game, I'm going to do that, and if they need me to start the game, I'm going to do that."

He has also accomplished something that numbers won't display-impress New England head coach Bill Belichick. The notoriously hard-to-please leader of the Patriots told WEEI's Christopher Price, "He's played well for us, again, going all the way back to the preseason- he has good run skills, he has good vision, he's a big, strong guy, he's got good speed, catches the ball well. He's been a dependable player for us."

Unfortunately, this could be Blount's lone season with the Patriots. He took a major pay cut when he joined the team, and will be a free agent next year. With his production and relative youth, he may find another team interested in him as a starter. Ridley, Vereen and Bolden are all under contract through 2014, so the big back may not get the kind of offer he would want from New England.

Regardless of what happens next year, the Patriots are enjoying what Blount is giving them this season. Since he came to the team with few expectations and for a small price, he is proving to be quite the bargain.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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