LeGarrette Blount received a strong endorsement from Eagles coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday, extinguishing the idea that Blount’s roster spot could be in jeopardy after an underwhelming start to the preseason.
“I’m excited that he’s here and he’s going to be a part of our offense,” Pederson said of the veteran running back.
Blount, 30, has nine carries for 17 yards during the preseason, and the sight of him running sideways has drawn criticism from fans this week. Pederson suggested that the way Blount has been used during the first two preseason games is not how Blount will be used during the regular season. He said Blount’s use during the past two days of practice – albeit with no live tackling – was more indicative of the straight-ahead rushing style the Eagles will ask of Blount this season.
“The guy is a beast of a runner,” Pederson said. “Listen, we’re not game-planning these games. So it’s really hard to go into a game saying, ‘This is best against this team.’ We’re trying to execute our plays. As coaches, we might be doing our players an injustice by putting them in bad situations. I’m just going to be honest with you. But you saw what he’s done these last couple of days.”
Pederson even incorporated statistics, citing Blount’s 18 touchdowns last season, 15 of which came in the red zone. Pederson said Blount has shown that potential production and running style in practice. The Eagles need a big-bodied back. The 250-pound Blount provides a physicality different than from Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, and Donnel Pumphrey, the next three running backs on the depth chart.
“You know what he can do,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “He’s a veteran player. He’s tough. He has good vision for a big man. He can move. He can cut. As things go forward, you look to find the plays that are best suited for him and you focus on those things and let him do his thing because when he does his thing, it results in a lot of touchdowns, and that’s what we’ve seen in his career.”
Reich said that in his career as a player and coach, he’s learned “not to overreact to preseason things.” That’s harder to do when it’s the only evidence available to fans.
After the game last week, Blount said to look at his preseason history compared to his regular-season history and see if there’s any connection. He has averaged nearly a yard more per carry in the regular season than the preseason, and he has averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry in three of his seven previous preseasons. Blount also said that he’s better over a full game, when he can wear teams down. He has more rushing yards and a better average in the fourth quarter than any other quarter in his career. He hasn’t played past the first quarter this summer.
Blount said this week that the third preseason game will give him his chance to establish a rhythm. The starters could play the entire first half. He will also rush behind the full first-team offensive line, which he hasn’t done yet this season.
But Blount must clearly show more. The Eagles signed him in May, when the market favors the team more than the player. His one-year, $1.25 million contract included only $400,000 guaranteed at signing, so it was a low-risk signing. Blount has a track record that appeals to the Eagles, but he must show he’s still that same player.
The Eagles say he is. Pederson expects Blount to be a big part of the offense, but Blount still needs to show why. The Eagles keep pointing to Sept. 10 as the time when it matters, although Thursday’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins would be a good time to start.
“I think we’re going to be really good,” Blount said. “I honestly believe that. The offensive line believes that. Doug believes it.”