CAN LeGarrette Blount be successful outside of the New England Patriots' offense?
Seems like a fair question. Blount had an excellent rookie season with Tampa way back in 2010 - 1,007 yards on 201 carries - but his yards per carry declined each of the next two seasons, until he bounced back to a 5.0 average in 2013, after being traded to the Patriots.
Blount's signing with the Steelers in 2014 was a disaster for him and the team, from the preseason marijuana arrest to his eventually getting waived after leaving a Nov. 17 game against the Titans in the closing minutes because he hadn't gotten any touches.
The Patriots promptly claimed Blount off waivers, and his 2014 season provides an interesting test case: He gained 266 yards on 65 carries, 4.1 yards per carry, as a Steeler, 281 yards on 60 carries, 4.7 yards per carry, as a Patriot.
In New England, Blount noted Thursday when he met with reporters at NovaCare, he had the good fortune to play with "probably had the best quarterback ever to play football" in Tom Brady.
"Tom is an amazing player. He's a smart player. When he's out there, it adds a lot of respect from any team you're playing against," Blount said.
The Eagles have second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, one of the reasons Blount signed the one-year, $1.25 million plus incentives contract here (another being that he apparently didn't have a bunch of attractive options, despite that flashy 18-rushing-touchdown stat last season, compiled while earning his second Patriots Super Bowl ring).
"I think he has the potential to be a really special player," Blount said, when asked about Wentz. "He has all the tools that are needed, and all the 'grind' that is needed, and he has the mindset to maximize his ability, if he just continues to work hard."
Quarterbacking aside, the Patriots generally use a fullback as a lead blocker. The Eagles generally do not. Blount shrugged off questions about the impact that difference might have on his effectiveness.
"New England doesn't always have a fullback," said Blount, who rushed for a career-high 1,161 yards last season on a career-high 299 carries, with the Pats missing their other top back, injured former Eagle Dion Lewis, until late in the season.
"Tampa doesn't always have a fullback. I've been in the backfield by myself before; I don't have a problem with it. I like having a fullback, or not having a fullback."
Blount acknowledged he was leaving behind "some of the best years of football you could ever remember. I'm happy I was a part of those." He said the Pats wanted him back, but given the two-year, $6.4 million contract they handed Mike Gillislee, they don't seem to have been too ardent in pursing Blount.
Of course, Blount probably won't be under pressure to produce the kind of numbers he put up last year for the Patriots. The Eagles' West Coast offense figures to incorporate running backs Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey as pass targets and runners, perhaps with a dash of Wendell Smallwood. If Blount, 6-1, 245, can punch the ball into the end zone against a stacked defense, the Eagles presumably will be happy.
We haven't heard from coach Doug Pederson or offensive coordinator Frank Reich yet on Blount's exact role, and neither has Blount, he said.
"They haven't given me a role, they haven't placed me under any category just yet . . . I gotta go out there and learn the offense, learn the playbook," Blount said.
Blount is three years older than when he chafed at not getting the ball a lot in Pittsburgh. He said he wouldn't mind being part of a rotation here.
"I'm excited to come here and compete for the job, for whatever position they want me to fill . . . I'm a very coachable player," Blount said.
Is there a minimum number of carries he needs? Isn't it going to be tough, if he ends up trotting onto the field cold for a crucial third-and-2?
"As a running back, you want to get into a rhythm of the game, see how the defense is playing," Blount agreed, "I wouldn't necessarily put a number on" what that entails. "I've played with other running backs before. I've split time with Stevan Ridley (in New England), I've split time with Cadillac Williams (in Tampa). It doesn't bother me."
How many years can he continue to be effective?
"As many as I need to play," Blount said.
Blount was asked about mentoring the Eagles' younger backs. Management probably hopes that doesn't entail getting pulled over with 20 grams of weed, as in August 2014, when Blount and then-second-year Steelers back Le'Veon Bell were arrested in Ross Township, near Pittsburgh.
"I definitely want to make sure the young guys stay on the right track," Blount said Thursday. "They have a great group here . . . I just want to make sure I fit in with the group."
Indeed, Blount seemed to take pains not to come off as the marquee guy with the rings coming here to show the losers how to win.
"I chose the Eagles for the specific reason of me fitting in really good here. The chance of making the team have a championship run . . . They were a really good team before I came," he said.
"I've been a part of something special before . . . I get the feeling that they have something special here. I want to be a part of that.
"I don't think you need to bring the culture of New England here. They have a culture of their own. They've had a lot of great players come through here - B-Dawk, the running back coach, Duce (Staley) . . . I don't think you need to bring the culture of any team over here."
A few eyebrows seemed to shoot up over Blount's repeated contention that the Eagles, who last saw the postseason in 2013, are ready to compete for a championship. But has there ever been a 30-year-old, fresh off signing a one-year deal,who didn't want to at least think that, anyway?
"I think every team is trying to win a championship . . . Carson is one of those guys that you want to build a team around," Blount said. "I think they're trying to win now, for sure."
The Eagles waived/injured undrafted defensive tackle Charles Walker to clear roster room for Blount. Walker, who underwent knee surgery before signing here, can go on injured reserve if he is unclaimed.