Bears coach Lovie Smith said in his season-ending press conference Jan. 5 that he still believes in being balanced and running the football on offense, even if common wisdom suggests building the scheme around quarterback Jay Cutler.
Despite Cutler's presence in the passing game and running back Matt Forte coming off a spectacular rookie season, the Midway Monsters were one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL in 2009: 93.2 yards per game (29th in the league), 23.3 attempts per game (29th), 4.0 yards per carry (tied for 25th), six rushing touchdowns (tied for 29th) and only seven runs of 20 yards or longer (tied for 23rd). Forte started all 16 games but managed just 929 yards on the ground, a 25-percent drop from his 2008 total of 1,238, plus he required minor surgery on his left knee earlier this month. Undrafted rookie free agent Kahlil Bell did a commendable job after being promoted from the practice squad, averaging 5.5 yards on his 40 rushes, but Kevin Jones missed the entire campaign on injured reserve and neither Garrett Wolfe nor Adrian Peterson is anything more than a special teamer at this point.
Chicago could really use a bruiser capable of pushing the pile in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and nobody looked more prepared to do that during Senior Bowl week than the controversial LeGarrette Blount of Oregon.
For an insider's perspective on the 6-0, 245-pounder and what he brings to the table as a pro prospect, Scout.com's Tim Yotter spent some time with Blount after practice Thursday in Mobile. ...
TY: Do you think what you went through made you even hungrier?
LB: Oh, yeah. Definitely. I'm hungry. I'm being as patient as possible to get that chance to get out there and just show everybody what they missed in 2009.
TY: What did you learn by sitting out?
LB: There wasn't anything for me to learn about myself. It was just I had to put a lot of things in perspective. I had to figure out that I couldn't do those things. I had to let everybody know that I wouldn't do those things again. It was just kind of heat of the moment. I just lost my emotions for a little bit. I've got to keep those under control and just let everybody know that I'm not going to give up on my dream.
TY: How much did you miss football at that time?
LB: I missed it a lot. I wished that I could be out there practicing and playing with my team every day, all the way until I got back at practice and got that chance to play.
TY: Did you ever feel like you wouldn't get another chance?
LB: I thought I wouldn't get another chance all the way until they told me they were going to give me another shot to get back on the team.
TY: What kind of feedback are you getting from coaches out here?
LB: These NFL coaches, they don't really tell you how you're doing. They just kind of keep it to themselves, so they're not really giving me any feedback on how well I'm doing here or this week. So I'm just trying to keep up the tempo, keep practicing fast, practice hard, finish all my runs and just continue to do well.
TY: Do you worry about shedding the image that people have from that game?
LB: No. I don't worry about shedding that image because I think that image is long gone. Now that I'm here, I think that image is long gone. It's going to continue to be on YouTube. It's going to continue to be on TV. Every time you see my face on TV, they're going to show that. But as far as personality-wise and everybody that knows me knows that image, the whole incident, is long gone.
TY: What are your goals as far as the draft goes?
LB: My goal is to get drafted as high as possible.
TY: What is the ceiling on that from what your agent is telling you?
LB: Me and my agent (Zeke Sandhu) don't really talk about it. We just talk about me training, getting in shape for the [Scouting] Combine, getting in better shape so I can run a faster 40. He just supports me in everything that I do. That's kind of why I chose him. My family loves him, and that's a big reason why I chose him. Everybody that I interviewed had to go through my mom, my dad, my sister and my family before they could even get my interest. My parents loved him, and I talked to him and I loved him. Today, everybody has a really good feeling for him. He's very family-oriented guy. He has a kid on the way here in the next month or so. He's going to have a little boy, too. So it's going to be fun letting him grow up and getting to know each other.
TY: Which teams have you met with?
LB: I probably met with all of them. I just meet with anybody that pulls me to the side and wants to talk with me.
JC's Take: Just in case you've been living in a cave since September, the "incident" Blount went through was when he slugged Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after a season-opening loss to the Broncos and was immediately suspended, and by the time he was reinstated by Oregon in mid-November, he didn't play much the rest of the way because LaMichael James was running so well for the Ducks.
While the Bears tend to steer clear of trouble makers and go out of their way to find players of high character after being burned by Tank Johnson and Cedric Benson, Blount has done all the right things since his suspension and sounded genuinely contrite every time he spoke to reporters at the Senior Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, many scouts believe he was the best ball carrier in Mobile and see him shooting up draft boards around the league. Not that Blount is without talent, as he appeared on the preseason watch lists for the Walter Camp Award and Doak Walker Award, but his patience at the line, vision in traffic and burst through the hole remind many of fellow Oregon alumnus Reuben Droughns.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo preaches value during the draft process, so if a player of Blount's ability is still sitting there in Round 4, he just might be the battering ram needed behind the overworked Forte.
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Mobile Analysis: LeGarrette Blount
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