The calm before the storm is always an interesting period. As the Eagles prepare for life in the postseason by selling out The Linc, speculation and excitement floods the City of Brotherly Love. Undoubtedly, there is much to be said about the Eagles backfield and who will carry the torch alongside Nick Foles in the second-round matchup and potentially beyond. While signs point towards Jay Ajayi, this doesn’t mean Blount’s role is redundant.
Since Ajayi arrived in Philadelphia, the shape of the backfield has changed significantly. Blount’s role has been reduced and Ajayi has carried the ball 12 or more times in each of the last three he’s been active. No back other than Blount has carried the ball more than 16 times in a game, signifying that the Eagles have found their optimal rotation…and given their struggles in the passing game, rotation will be key.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about Blount is that he is the workhorse back of this group. In the playoffs last year, Blount averaged 3.1 yards per carry, picking up 109 yards and a single touchdown. Those are not numbers of a back relied upon on rushing attempt after rushing attempt. His bruising ability to convert in short situations will be imperative to a team completely in third down efficiency. While what’s asked of him may different, his attitude has remained the same however…and that says all you need to know.
“LeGarrette has embraced his role.” Pederson explained to reporters recently. “I’ll tell you what, he’s been a pleasant surprise, particularly with the younger guys. He understands his role. He’s going to be a big part of the success, and has been a big part of the successes this year already.”
The fact of the matter is this. Blount has been there and done it. A 2x Super Bowl champion and someone who torched the Colts for a career high 4 touchdowns and 166 yards in the 2013 playoffs, before notching 148 more the next time they met in the postseason one year later, Blount is one of the most instrumental veterans in the locker room.
“He has been to the pinnacle. Pederson told the media earlier this year. “He’s been there and understands it, what it takes. Those are the things I’m going to lean on him with with our team and with the guys that haven’t been there. How to practice, how to prepare. So he’s really done a nice job this his role.
I will also lean on some of the veteran guys that have been in the post season to sort of convey that message as well.”
Blount was asked just a few weeks ago on his new refined role in the Eagles offense and his answer was exactly what you’d expect from a veteran who puts the team before all else.
“You know, you cannot tell until the game starts and you see how they are playing things.” Blount said. “Obviously, you study game film all week and it never really goes how you see it on film. No team every really brings exactly what you see on film towards other teams. They look at film on us and they switch things up. They bring something different to the table than what you are expecting. So that is why you have to pay attention and make corrections right away on the things that might not be going right.”
When the weather is cold, the snow and rain make for unpredictable circumstances and a young backfield is expected to step up to the plate and aid a passing game that may never discover the fire it once had under Carson Wentz, the Eagles will turn to Blount…not just on the field, but off of it.
With 766 yards and his highest yards per carry average (4.4) since 2014, Blount may not be the heart of the Eagles running backs when they’re on the field. But he has encapsulated the hearts of the backs themselves and pushed them all to this point.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports