While much of the focus over the last 10 days has been on the Patriots' rookies, four-year veteran running back LeGarrette Blount is also part of the discussion. The Patriots acquired Blount in a draft-day trade in exchange for a seventh-round draft choice and running back Jeff Demps.
Pat Yasinskas, who covers the NFC South for ESPN.com, has obliged to provide more detail on Blount's time in Tampa.
How would you sum up Blount's three seasons with the Buccaneers?
Very much a mixed bag. He was fantastic in his rookie year, putting up 1,000 yards in basically half a season as the starter. Hopes were high and the Bucs thought they had a steal in a guy that was undrafted out of college. But some of the areas in which Blount is deficient started to show through in a disastrous 2011 season for the Bucs. He couldn't catch the ball out of the backfield, wasn't good in pass protection and had some issues with fumbling. When Greg Schiano came in as coach in 2012, he made it clear Blount wasn't going to get to carry the ball if he couldn't hold onto it. Blount worked hard to correct his problems, but his fate was sealed when the Bucs drafted Doug Martin, who is the kind of all-purpose back Schiano wanted. Blount hung around as a backup for 2012, but was never really a factor.
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of his game?
His strength is that his size allows him to be potentially the type of punishing runner that can wear down a defense. His weakness is that he's one-dimensional. He hasn't shown he's capable on passing downs.
One line of thinking here was that Blount could be a short-yardage or goal-line back based on his size (6-0, 247). How does that marry up with what you've seen?
On the surface, you would think Blount is a perfect short-yardage or goal-line back due to his size. And there were moments when he looked the part. However, and this was perplexing, there were moments when Blount didn't look good in that role. I clearly remember a game in Atlanta where he overlooked a wide-open hole into the end zone and cost Tampa Bay the game. At other times, he just didn't seem to use his power to its full capacity.
Any insight you can share about what type of teammate Blount was in Tampa?
He came out of college with a reputation for being "trouble.'' But he did repair his reputation to some degree in Tampa Bay. He was well liked by his teammates. But he also frustrated former coach Raheem Morris, who ran a very loose ship. It was widely reported the Bucs hired a personal driver to make sure Blount got to practice on time because he was having trouble in that department. The inability to pick up pass protections also didn't endear him to Morris or Schiano. Still, I think there's a chance that getting a fresh start with Bill Belichick could be a good thing for Blount's career. He has some ability, but needs a strong support system around him. He also might be wise to get introspective about what went wrong in Tampa and correct those issues. His career could ride on that.
What are your thoughts on the Bill Belichick/Greg Schiano connection and how the Patriots and Buccaneers have been trade partners, and their coaches are exchanging ideas?
It's pretty fascinating to watch. Coming into the NFL, Schiano talked about how much he respected Belichick and viewed him as his mentor. Turns out, that wasn't just lip service. The admiration seems to run both ways, with Belichick bringing in so many former Rutgers players. I know some of Tampa Bay's coaches were scheduled to meet with New England's staff this week. Supposedly, the purpose was to plan out joint practices during the preseason. But, given the relationship of the two head coaches, you have to wonder if this meeting also is a bit of "think tank." The AFC East and NFC South teams play each other this year. Belichick isn't going to give Schiano a blueprint of how to beat the Patriots. But it would help Belichick if Schiano and the Bucs can give the Jets, Dolphins and Bills a loss. And it would help Schiano if Belichick and the Patriots can knock off the Falcons, Saints and Panthers.