Posted on May 22, 2017, by Travis Pulver
There was a lot of crazy hype surrounding the Philadelphia Eales last season. They shocked the NFL-loving free world when they traded away their starting quarterback days before the regular season started. They shocked the world when they won their first three games.
Then the wheels fell off, and they went 4-9 over the remainder of the season and finished the season with a 7-9 record.
The natural thing to do would be to blame Carson Wentz or the terminal case of the drops his receivers had. While a portion of the blame does lie with Wentz and his receivers, more of it should lie with the team’s running game. With the acquisition of LeGarrette Blount, it is an issue which they have addressed.
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But… wait. Didn’t the Eagles have a decent running game last year? Finishing the season ranked No. 11 in yards per game (113.3) is nothing to be ashamed of doing. While the running game did okay overall, the Eagles did not have the kind of rushing attack defenses had to be concerned about stopping. It wasn’t a threat which allowed defenses to focus on making Carson Wentz’s life miserable.
It certainly didn’t help that the team didn’t have a reliable running back on the roster last season. Ryan Mathews isn’t bad, but he certainly isn’t good either. Darren Sproles is a fantastic return man and one of the deadliest runners in the NFL once he gets into space, but he is too small to be a primary runner. Wendell Smallwood showed some promise as a rookie but nothing to make defenses nervous.
But LeGarrette Blount will.
Blount is everything the rest of the Eagles running backs are not. He is a big boy (250 lbs.) that runs hard, can grind out the tough yards, and dish out, even more, punishment than he takes. He can be the workhorse running back the Eagles lack. Blount can gain the tough yards and make defenses stack the box to stop the run while Wentz throws the ball downfield.
That is, as long as Blount is the same beast next season that he has always been. However, factors are working against him. Blount is going to turn 31 during the season. He is at the age where running backs often hit a wall and start to decline rapidly. Carrying the ball more time last season (299) than he did in the previous two combined (290) doesn’t help either.
At the same time, factors are working in his favor, too:
- While he may be reaching that age for running backs, he doesn’t have the mileage on him that most 30-year old running backs have. Over the course of his career, he has only averaged 11.7 carries a game.
- With the offensive line the Eagles have, chances are he’ll have bigger holes to run through than he’s ever had.
- Like every other stage of his career, he will not be asked to carry the load for the running game. Ryan Mathews and Wendall Smallwood will still get carries, and Darren Sproles will primarily see action on passing downs.
Should he be the same guy Patriots fans have come to know and love, he will add a new dimension to the Eagles offense. In doing so, life could/should get easier for Carson Wentz. Teams will be forced to respect the run which should take some pressure off Wentz.
For a team that was 7-9 without a reliable, go-to running back last season and a rookie quarterback, a dependable running back can make the difference between a 10-6 season and a wild card berth and another 7-9 season.