LeGarrette Blount only ran for 15 yards in Week 1 after gaining 1,007 in just 13 games last year. (Fernando Medina/US Presswire)
The Bucs were 5-1 last season in games that LaGarrette Blount had more than 15 carries, and they were 6-2 if you include games where Blount had exactly 15 carries. One would assume Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Greg Olson are aware of those numbers.
On the other hand ...
Blount played 13 total snaps last Sunday against Detroit, with Tampa Bay turning to its no-huddle offense for more than half the game and keeping Earnest Graham in the backfield. Morris said after the game that Blount's not even really a consideration when Tampa turns to its two-minute attack:
"It's not LeGarrette. That's the two-minute offense," Morris said. "LeGarrette was never featured in the two-minute offense. Earnest Graham has always been in on third-down offense, the two-minute offense, right now, him and (Kregg) Lumpkin. Those are the guys who are doing it."
That's all well and good, especially in Graham's case -- he's actually been shifted to fullback this year because he can block, and he's also a capable pass-catcher (six receptions for 58 yards against the Lions). But the Tampa Bay offense needs Blount to run at full steam, and the rate at which they gave up on him against Detroit was stunning.
Blount had one carry for no gain in the first quarter, four carries for 15 yards in the second ... and that's it.
It was 20-10 late in the first half when Tampa Bay went to the no-huddle and that strategy produced a field goal just before the half. The Bucs then came out after halftime still in the hurry-up, handed off to Graham three times and punted. They also went three-and-out on their next two possessions -- handing off exactly zero times -- and were down 27-13 by the time they got rolling again.
Quite simply, Tampa Bay's Week 1 approach wasn't good enough.
Maybe the Bucs got spooked by Detroit's front four, which was disruptive enough even on a so-so day to keep Freeman on the move. Maybe they thought Graham's ability to slip out of the backfield for passes was the key to beating that pressure.
Part of the problem with the no-huddle attack, though, is that if it doesn't work, you hang your defense out to dry. Detroit wound up with 13 minutes more time of possession Sunday, wearing down the Bucs in the second half.
Waiting for Tampa Bay in Week 2 is a stingy Minnesota front that held the Chargers to just 77 yards rushing last Sunday and forced Philip Rivers almost exclusively to the air. The Vikings have the type of defensive attack that could leave Tampa facing some of the same decisions it had to make in Week 1.
Do the Bucs try to establish the run at all costs? Or do they abandon it completely, drop Freeman into the 'gun and play pass-first?