Do you remember when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had 6’, 250 pound LaGarrette Blount at running back?
Now do you remember scratching your head when you heard that he had been traded to the New England Patriots for rookie Jeff Demps?
Sure, Blount’s production had dramatically fallen off in 2012 when he only gained 151 yards on 41 carries as compared to his 1,007 yards on 201 attempts in 2010. That significant drop in touches had a lot to do with Doug Martin’s amazing rookie campaign.
Still, traded for a rookie? Someone who hasn’t proven himself at the professional level? It was definitely a bold move, and one that so far has not paid off.
If you want to give the front office the benefit of the doubt I understand. The trade looked good on paper. Demps had the appeal of a speedster and the fact that Martin had become their new power back; the Bucs were able to take the chance on dealing Blount.
Demps has been called the fastest man in the NFL by new Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith, and it’s a title that could be deemed appropriate. A former Florida Gator, Demps not only played football, but ran track. He helped the Gators football team win the 2008 BCS National Championship with 605 yards on 78 carries and 7 touchdowns.
He also won multiple national championships with the Florida Track and Field team in the 60 and 100-meter sprints. Demps skipped the 2012 NFL Combine and Draft to train for the 2012 London Olympics, and was eventually selected to the American Olympic Track and Field team. Even though he did not compete in the event, Demps received a silver medal after Team USA came in second in the 4×100 men’s relay.
After the Olympics, Demps signed with the New England Patriots and was then traded to the Bucs. In his first official season (he was hurt and missed all of 2012), Demps had one attempt for 14 yards. Yes that is right, one attempt for 14 yards.
Those stats are awful, and made a lot of fans wonder if the trade had been worth it. To put in perspective had terrible of a season it was for Demps, when Martin and Mike James went down with injury the Bucs went and got Bobby Rainey off of waivers. Wheter he was still battling an injury or the coaching staff did not have faith in him, the organization did not think Demps was the man for the job.
So far, Demps has not lived up to his potential. He is a speedster who has run the 100-meter dash in 9.96 seconds. Now that is not Usain Bolt fast, but compared to the average Joe or even the average NFL player that is pretty fast. So how is it Demps has not become a staple in the Tampa offense yet if he is a premier speed-burner?
The biggest reason is unlike track and field, there are eleven guys trying to tackle him, and Demps is not the biggest in any room standing a mere 5’7”.
His size is the biggest issue. How many 5’7” 191 pound running backs do you know that have succeeded in the NFL? Not that many.
My thinking is that Demps is never going to be used as a running back in Tampa, except for maybe a sweep or a reverse if Tampa is feeling bold. There is simply no room in the backfield after this year’s draft when the Bucs selected Charles Sims. That adds another running back to the already crowded backfield. No, he will be utilized in other areas by Tampa if he starts performing on a professional level.
One possibility for Demps is special teams. Demps could be used on punts and kick returns because of his speed. Think about it, kick returns average about 100 yards to the end zone, and what did Demps do in track and field? That’s right, the 100-meter dash.
Now punts are different, and can be very tricky. The player has to have good hand-eye coordination to field the punts and not muff them. He also needs to be aware of what is going on in front of him while trying to catch the ball at the same time. On top of that, he needs to be able to read the punt coverage to figure out where he needs to attack.
It’s a difficult job, and it is one that Demps could be good at if he can do all of those things and have a special teams squad that blocks for him. Demps could also be used as a receiver. He had three receptions for 21 yards in 2013, which I know is not very good, but its something.
Demps could be used in the slot to take pressure off of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. That could cause problems for defenses cause you don’t want to leave Jackson or Evans in one-on-one coverage, but you also cant ignore Demps because of his speed. It could create a coverage nightmare for teams.
The problem with Demps in the slot is, there are other players who could be used at that position. Many people believe that newly drafted wide receiver Robert Herron could be used in the slot. There is also a possibility that Mike James could be used in the slot. So it’s all on Demps to show the coaches before the season starts that he can be effective in the slot.
If he is unable to show coaches that he can be useful in the slot or on special teams, it seems that Demps’ time in Tampa was over before it even began.