Despite historically low receiving numbers, Eagles could involve LeGarrette Blount

Despite historically low receiving numbers, Eagles could involve LeGarrette Blount

No running back in the last 35 years has had more seasons with 10 or fewer catches.

No running back in the last 60 years has had more career rushing yards without catching 50 passes.

No running back in NFL history has had more seasons with 700 or more rushing yards and seven or fewer receptions.

It's just something LeGarrette Blount has never done.

Blount, the Eagles' high-profile offseason running back acquisition, is one of only three players in NFL history with 5,000 or more rushing yards and fewer than 50 career receptions.

The others are both former Eagles — Steve Van Buren, who ran for 5,860 yards but caught 45 passes, and Michael Vick, who ran for 6,109 yards in his career and caught two passes.

Blount has 5,122 career rushing yards but just 46 receptions. He did somehow catch 15 passes for the Buccaneers back in 2011, but the last five years he's averaged just 5.2 catches per season.

For the sake of comparison, during the four-year stretch from 2004 through 2007, Brian Westbrook averaged 5.5 receptions per game.

Blount's biggest years have been 2010 and 2011 with the Buccaneers and 2013 and 2016 with the Patriots.

His rushing totals those four years: 1,007, 781, 772 and 1,161 yards.

His receiving totals those years: Five, two, six and seven catches.

Four times in his career Blount has rushed for more touchdowns than he's had receptions.

In eight career playoff games, Blount has caught one pass. For eight yards. 

Blount has never had more than three catches in a game.

So now that we've established that no running back in modern NFL history has been less of a weapon as a receiver, let's try to figure out where Blount fits in here.

Eagles running backs have historically been pass catchers, not just in the Andy Reid offense run by Reid and Doug Pederson but under Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and even Buddy Ryan.

Only Chip Kelly didn't like to throw to the backs.

In fact, in the last 30 years, the Eagles have had 23 backs rush for 700 or more yards. Only three of those had fewer than 40 catches -- Earnest Jackson in 1985 (10), Herschel Walker in 1992 (38) and LeSean McCoy in 2014 (career-low 28).

Blount has an NFL-record four seasons with 100 or more carries and seven or fewer catches.

The last Eagle running back to do that was Ken Keller in 1956.

All of which takes us to 2017.

Blount is here, in an offense where the backs have to catch the football.

The Eagles have two options. Don't play him on passing downs. Or use the preseason to assimilate Blount into the passing game for the first time in his life.

"I think it's going to surprise a few people," running backs coach Duce Staley said. "He can catch the ball. Sent him on a couple wheel routes a couple times (during OTAs) and he beat the linebacker. He was open, and he can catch the ball in the flat, and I'd love to get him some screens set up to where he can get that big body going north. He can scare some people."

Blount said the only reason he's never caught a lot of passes is that he's never been asked to catch passes.

He's a classic straight-ahead power runner who's been used that way every stop of his career.

"I don’t too much pay attention to what fans think about my skill set," he said.

"I know what I can do. They know what I can do. If it’s called for me to catch the ball, I do. I don’t drop passes. Whatever it is (they want me) to do, I’m going to do it.

"We have a good pass-catcher in 43 (Darren Sproles), but if I need to do it, then I will do it."

Head coach Doug Pederson knows that if any running back doesn't get involved in the running game, the offense gets predictable when he's on the field.

He said he liked what he's seen of Blount in the passing game during the four weeks of minicamps.

"Yeah, he's actually a pretty good pass catcher," Pederson said. "When you watch him at practice and in some of the drills that we've put him in, he's pretty smooth.

"Maybe he doesn't have the numbers and all that, and he hasn’t been used that way, but I'm very comfortable putting him in situations where we can throw him the ball."

With Jason Peters re-signed, Lane Johnson again biding time at right tackle

With Jason Peters re-signed, Lane Johnson again biding time at right tackle

Lane Johnson figured he'd play a couple years, Jason Peters would retire, and he'd swing over from right tackle over to left tackle.

Now, Johnson is entering his fifth NFL season and that move seems no closer than when he got here.

"He may be 54 out there playing left tackle," Johnson said of Peters with a laugh. "He’s a different breed, man. He’s so big and strong, his body can do it. … 

"I might be over here my whole career, but I'm just going to make the best of it."

Peters probably won't play quite that long, but Johnson is an interesting position.

He was drafted as the Eagles' eventual left tackle, he believes he's a better left tackle than right tackle, and the contract extension he signed early last year pays him like a left tackle.

But Peters just won't retire.

Peters, 35, on Tuesday agreed to terms of a contract extension that shifts his future base salary into guaranteed money and makes it likely he'll be here for three more years (see story).

Johnson won't be 42 by 2019, but he will be 29 and going into his seventh season.

"I’m fine with it," Johnson said at his locker after minicamp practice on Wednesday. "Great player, been with the franchise a long time. I’ll probably end up right tackle this year, maybe one day he’ll end up going to guard, but he’ll play left tackle this year and I’ll play right. 

"But I’m just glad he’s here. Every day he’s here makes me a better player."

Head coach Doug Pederson suggested that the Eagles could move Peters to guard, presumably left guard, at some point in the future, and Peters said he's fine with that (see story).

Imagine Johnson at left tackle and Peters at left guard?

"Be like running behind a damn buffalo," Johnson said. "He’s just so big, man. So big and strong. Not many guys at 350 can run and move like he does."

But for now, Johnson is preparing for his fifth season at right tackle — he missed four games in 2014 and 10 games last year with NFL suspensions for a banned substance — and Peters is getting ready for his 14th NFL season and ninth with the Eagles.

Peters began his career as an undrafted tight end with the Bills before moving to tackle in his second season.

He's been to nine Pro Bowls and hasn't missed a Pro Bowl in a season he's played since 2006.

"I’ve got one of the best of all-time so I know if I can keep my play similar to his … I know I'm doing good," Johnson said. "From my first year to my second year is when I made the biggest jump as a player and it’s just knowledge. Stuff he’s experienced over the years. 

"He’s played a lot more players than I have. Gives me advice against guys I’m playing against. It’s just advice you don’t get anywhere else."

Johnson said he's happy playing right tackle, but he believes he's better suited to play left tackle.

"I think I’m better at left," Johnson said. "I’m a lot more fluid at left tackle. … I think I'm a better pass blocker on the left. I’ve gotten better on the right, but it’s just not as natural. I don’t know why. … Probably (because) having your strong hand inside so you’re able to be quick on your counter moves. I just feel quicker. I don’t know why.

“A lot of times they say the left tackle has great feet and the right tackle is less athletic. My deal was I got the best ever playing on left. One of the best ever. A Hall of Fame player. So I’ll bide my time till I’m over there. Just got stuck in a good situation for me."

Johnson is one positive test away from a two-year suspension, but he said his lawsuit against the NFL and the NFLPA to retroactively rescind the second suspension and re-guarantee contract money that became non-guaranteed upon his second suspension is still on course.

"It’s still ongoing, that’s all I can say," he said. "May be done sometime this year, but I really don’t know. Just kind of letting the lawyers do their thing and sit back and play football. 

"Sometimes these things take years. Hopefully, it gets solved before then but you really just don’t know. It’s just back and forth. Not much stuff has been resolved. Just going through paperwork."

Because of his suspensions, Johnson has missed 14 games — almost the equivalent of a full season.

He said his focus this year is playing 16 consistent games wherever he's lined up.

"I just want to go out there and show people what kind of tackle I am," he said. "I feel like I’m one of the best in the league and go out there and do a lot less talking and show people what I can do. 

"I want to be the best in the league this year. No ifs, ands or buts. … I’m not trying to get arrogant or anything, but you go watch the film. My deal is just stay on the field."

Jason Peters has chance to be rare Eagles great to finish career in Philly

Jason Peters has chance to be rare Eagles great to finish career in Philly

Let’s take a look at the greatest Eagles of the last 30 years.

Reggie. Dawk. Donovan. Seth. Clyde. Andre. Wes. Trott. Eric Allen. Keith Jackson. Lito. Sheldon. Tra. Runyan. Shady. DeSean. Jeremy Maclin. Trent Cole. David Akers. Asante Samuel. Brian Westbrook. Bobby Taylor. Corey Simon. Irving Fryar, William Fuller.

They all have one thing in common.

Not one finished his career in Philadelphia. Not one.

It’s really been a constant since the inception of free agency 25 years ago. The best players, the most popular players, the most successful players, either had no desire to stay here when their contracts expired (thanks, Rich Kotite) or were unwanted and disposed of, left to finish their careers in anonymity in Cleveland, Jacksonville or Detroit.

The last Pro Bowl Eagle to play his entire career with the Eagles? You have to go back to Mike Quick, and who knows what would have happened had the Veterans Stadium turf not ravaged his knees so badly he had to retire prematurely.

It’s really been an ugly blotch on this franchise for years.

Now, some of the veterans the Eagles have let go were really at the end of the line and didn’t deserve the big contracts they wanted. Andy Reid and Joe Banner generally had a keen sense of when a player had reached his peak and was on the downside of his career.

But Reggie? Dawk?

Two of the greatest defensive players in NFL history were both allowed to leave Philly in the prime of their careers. Reggie and Dawk, who were never teammates but did become very close friends before Reggie passed so tragically in 2004, left for Green Bay in 1993 and Denver in 2009, respectively, under different circumstances. But these were incredibly embarrassing and foolish decisions by the Eagles.

Reggie led a parade of all-pro Eagles who bailed out on the franchise in the early 1990s because Norman Braman, then the team’s owner, didn’t believe in paying fair market value in the early days of free agency and frankly because they didn’t want to play for Kotite.

Dawk left after 2008 — the last time the Eagles won a playoff game — because the Eagles simply didn't want to pay one of the greatest safeties in NFL history what he was worth.

More recent departures, such as Jackson, Maclin and Shady, fall squarely on the disastrous general manager leadership of Chip Kelly.

But whatever the reason, whoever was responsible, the common denominator for three decades now has been great players either don’t want to be here or aren’t wanted here.

Now, in Eagles history, there are four players who’ve been named to seven or more Pro Bowls.

Chuck Bednarik played long before free agency and spent his entire 14-year career here. The other three are Reggie, Dawk and Jason Peters.

Peters is a future Hall of Famer, a nine-time Pro Bowler, seven of those nine with the Eagles. He is without question one of the greatest Eagles of all time, and like so many before him, he wants to finish his career here.

Unlike so many before him, he will.

Peters, who turned 35 soon after last season ended, signed a contract extension on Wednesday that goes a long way toward assuring that he’ll finish his career here.

This is a strange business. You never know what will happen down the line. But Peters got the commitment from the Eagles he wanted so badly. In NFL parlance, guaranteed money equals a commitment, and Peters now has $15.5 million guaranteed through 2019.

That will be his 16th NFL season and 11th with the Eagles.

It's impossible to measure how damaging it was for the Eagles to allow Reggie and Dawk to leave 16 years apart. Those moves alienated the fan base for years. They made the remaining players question the team's commitment to winning. They cast a pall over the entire organization.

Keeping Peters has the exact opposite effect.

It proves a commitment to winning on the part of owner Jeff Lurie, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson. It tells players around the league this is a destination they might want to consider when they reach free agency. It tells the young guys who are Peters' current teammates that if they excel, they too have a chance to be richly rewarded.

The other day, when Lane Johnson stood at his locker and declared himself a top-10 tackle in the NFL, he was asked about Peters, and he said, "Oh, he's on a whole other level."

No, Peters is not the player he was before the Achilles injuries that cost him the 2012 season. But he's close. He's very close.

And for a team with a young, promising quarterback, a monster left tackle protecting his blind side is just about the most important thing you can have.

You can talk all you want about wanting to win championships. But keeping your best players proves you really mean it.