One of the more random stories of the offseason was the 49ers supposed signing of running back undrafted rookie LeGarrette Blount. Blount had gone undrafted following the punching incident at Oregon but in 2008 he had been an absolute beast at running back. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Blount changed his mind and signed with the Tennessee Titans. Rumor has it that he felt he had a better chance for more playing time with the Titans rather than the 49ers, but I don't think that was ever confirmed. He was eventually waived at the end of training camp and signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs started the season with Cadillac Williams continuing in his role as starting running back. Through the first two games Blount received no carries and Cadillac held onto his role. However, week three saw changes as they split carries in a big Bucs loss (six carries apiece). After their bye Blount received only four carries in week five and no carries in week six. However, week seven he had 11 carries for 72 yards and he was basically off to the races at that point. Including week seven here are his numbers since basically taking over the starting running back role:
vs. St. Louis (18-17 win): 11 carries, 72 yards
@ Arizona (38-35 win): 22 carries, 120 yards, 2 TDs
@ Atlanta (27-21 loss): 13 carries, 46 yards
vs. Carolina (31-16 win): 19 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD
This weekend against the 49ers will be one of Blount's biggest tests to date. Our 49ers rank sixth in yards allowed per rushing attempt, which is the highest ranking among his opponents thus far. The 49ers are also fifth in rushing defense according to DVOA. There's no doubt the 49ers bring a stout rushing defense to the table but Blount will still be a challenge. He is a big bruiser of a running back with some solid speed. The 49ers have some athletic linebackers and cornerbacks that can tackle extremely well in run support. Inside, Aubrayo Franklin has had his struggles this year so it will be interesting to see how he handles the middle of the line against Blount and the Bucs offensive line.
I'd say the big key for the 49ers will be getting an early lead and trying to force the Bucs into a situation where they have to rely more on the pass. Of course, the 49ers will also have to deal with Josh Freeman who has shown considerable growth in his second season as Bucs QB. His numbers haven't always been spectacular this season, but he's done enough to put the Bucs in a position to win and has shown a flair for the dramatic in the fourth quarter. However, if the 49ers can take Blount out of the equation, or at the very least minimize his impact, I think Freeman could struggle.
After the jump I've posted Blount highlight packages from the Bucs and from Oregon.
Tampa Bay Highlights