EAGLES COACHES LOOK FORWARD TO SEE WHAT BLOUNT CAN DO
Duce Staley knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a great running back in the NFL. He was very good with the Eagles, amassing 7,305 yards from the line of scrimmage in his seven seasons as an all-purpose back, and he’s been a coach since 2010. LeSean McCoy blossomed with Staley over his shoulder, so Duuuuuuuuuccceeee gets “it” when it comes to stud running backs.
But what he’s got in the form of LeGarrette Blount is unusual for Staley, and for the Eagles. Blount is a 6-foot-2, 250-pound hammer who adds a dimension to the Eagles’ offense they haven’t had in more than a generation.
“He brings it. Lots of power. He is the definition of a power running back, and we have to take advantage of that,” Staley said of Blount, who won a Super Bowl with New England last season and signed a one-year contract with the Eagles in May. “It’s a lot different than what we’ve had, and what I’ve coached, but I can tell you this: LeGarrette has a very high football IQ, he loves the game and he knows the role he’s going to have here.”
The role is pretty easy to define: Blount isn’t here to be a pretty boy. He’s not here to dance in the backfield and make defenders miss and go on 70-yard highlight-reel touchdown runs. Blount is here to help the Eagles improve two weak areas from 2016: converting short-yardage situations and putting the ball in the end zone inside the 20-yard line.
“My role is my role, so whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it,” said Blount, who set career highs in 2016 with 299 carries for 1,161 yards and an NFL-high 18 rushing touchdowns. “I’m not one to shy away from any labels. If they want me to do the short-yardage stuff, that’s good. I’m good with that. I just want to do what the team needs me to do to help us win. When I have the ball in my hands,
I’m going to get to my goal.”
The Eagles ranked 24th in the NFL last season in touchdown efficiency in the red zone, and their third-and-short efficiency ranked in the bottom half of the league’s rankings as well.
It was no secret that the team wanted to address its running back depth chart in the offseason, but after the first wave of free agency came and went without a move, the Eagles only added San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphery in the fourth round of the NFL draft, and at 175 pounds Pumphery – the all-time leading yardage producer in NCAA history – isn’t going to knock any defender on his back.
So the Eagles were fortunate that Blount, who despite his brilliant season to help New England to another Super Bowl win didn’t gain a lot of big-contract traction in free agency, was still on the streets in mid May.
It didn’t take long to get Blount to Philadelphia, and very soon after that both sides expressed confidence that the fit was just about perfect.
“If I can be a piece in this offense, that’s cool with me. I’m good with that,” Blount said. “I’ve loved this so far. We have some pieces here with a good offensive line and Carson (Wentz, quarterback) coming on strong.”
Said head coach Doug Pederson: “LeGarrette is going to be a big part in what we do. He’s got so much size and he runs downhill and he keeps drives alive. Punching the ball into the end zone, that’s something he has a special knack to do. I’m excited to work him in and see how we can use him best.”
The Eagles have never had a 250-pound running back, instead employing multi-purpose backs, like Staley and McCoy, for example, to play in a variety of offenses dating back to the Dick Vermeil days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Blount, then, represents a changing philosophy.
Staley, the coach, can’t wait to see what Blount brings to the table once the pads go on and Training Camp begins on July 24.
“He runs downhill and he punishes people and that is something we have to use to our advantage,” Staley said. “LeGarrette is the kind of guy who is going to make defenses respect our running game and our ability to keep the chains moving and to score when it gets tight down inside the 10-yard line. We’re going to hand him the ball and it’s going to be physical.”
It also has a chance to change the dynamic of an offense that suddenly has dynamic pass catchers in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, along with a bulldozer of a running back in Blount. The Eagles have a new look on offense, including the biggest running back the franchise has ever leaned on.
Blount is the power running back in an offense desperate for some physicality in the tight quarters of the red zone. It sure does seem like a match made in football heaven.*