LeGarrette Blount unlikely to play role of savior for Eagles

LeGarrette Blount unlikely to play role of savior for Eagles

The Eagles needed a running back, and LeGarrette Blount was the best option remaining on the free-agent market. A one-year, incentive-laden, minimally guaranteed deal makes sense.

Before declaring the Blount signing a victory for the Eagles, just be aware of exactly what the offense is getting.

Blount posted impressive totals in 2016 with 1,161 yards on the ground and a league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns during the regular season. He also led the NFL with 5.4 yards per carry in short-yardage situations, which have long been an issue for the Eagles.

Blount also averaged a subpar 3.9 yards over all 299 of his carries, which ranked 30th out of 42 qualifying backs. He managed just seven receptions on the year as well, accounting for almost 10 percent of his career output as a receiver.

Blount may be the best short-yardage back in the league, but he’s one-dimensional. He provides no support for the passing attack, thus defenses stack eight men in the box when they see him coming.

Obviously, the New England Patriots thought better about retaining such a limited player, which should be reason enough to give pause to any celebration.

The Patriots have a track record of turning castoffs and role players into stars. That’s relevant here, too, because Blount never enjoyed near the same success in stints with the Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Why will his luck be any different with the Eagles?

The closest Blount came to becoming a feature back prior to joining the Patriots were his first two seasons in the league. Released by the Titans out of training camp, Blount caught on with the Bucs and managed to eclipse 1,000 yards as a rookie. He quickly fell out of favor, was reduced to 41 carries by year three and allowed to depart as a free agent.

Blount spent 2013 restoring his value with the Patriots, then joined the Steelers. That arrangement didn’t last long, either, as he was released after 11 games, before finding his way back to New England, where he spent the past two-and-a-half years.

Blount racked up 2,917 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns in parts of four seasons with the Patriots, where he helped carry the team to a pair of Super Bowl championships. In parts of four seasons spent with the Titans, Bucs and Steelers, he totaled 2,205 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and was released twice. Now, he’s 30.

None of which is to say Blount can’t help the Eagles. At 6-foot-0, 250 pounds, he brings size, power and a veteran presence to a backfield that is likely to lose Ryan Mathews. Even with Mathews, the Eagles ranked 26th in short-yardage situations in '16.

Blount could be less effective in those situations and still be of service. Merely putting him on the field has defenses guessing run, opening up play action and bootlegs for Carson Wentz.

Frankly, the Eagles needed a veteran back to come in and compete with the current group, not to mention a bigger back who can handle 200-plus carries.

Nonetheless, Blount is the definition of a Band-Aid, and it’s unclear whether he’s enough to cover the gaping hole the Eagles have at running back. He’s only really experienced success with the best team in the league, and his skill set doesn’t especially fit the west coast offense.

With only $400,000 of his salary for 2017 guaranteed, it appears the Eagles may share similar concerns.

This was a move the Eagles absolutely needed to make, but one that is far from assured of working out. As long as everybody is aware of that going in, Blount won’t disappoint.

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

It was great to be back at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday and take in an Eagles practice, even if it was non-contact. There’s a lot of buzz around the team right now, and minimal time to cover everything, so let’s dive into some of the storylines that slipped through the cracks during the first week of OTAs.

The thought that the Eagles are secretly fuming over Carson Wentz seeing a private quarterback guru seems ridiculous. It’s not uncommon for NFL players -- even quarterbacks -- to seek council during the offseason. Tom Brady did it, and I don’t recall any drama ever unfolding with the Patriots as a result of that. Perhaps some mild concern has been expressed behind closed doors, as Wentz’s mechanics are a constant work in progress, and Eagles coaches surely prefer he learn the methods they’re teaching. Then again, I highly doubt somebody earned the title of “quarterback guru” if they’re not passing along standard NFL techniques. It was an even bigger reach to suggest Doug Pederson’s displeasure over this development was on display during his press conference on Tuesday.

I’m not one to place a whole lot of stock into OTAs, but seeing rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas on the field with the first-team defense in nickel situations is a promising sign. He didn’t look out of place, either. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Douglas matched up well with Alshon Jeffery. I could see his size being an asset against NFC East rivals like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor -- bigger receivers the Eagles will face two times each this season. While performance in OTAs typically means squat, it was about this time last year when Jalen Mills began ascending the depth chart, and he wound up playing quite a bit. It’s early, but given the situation at cornerback, not at all far-fetched to anticipate a similar role coming for Douglas.

While I agree with the premise Nelson Agholor could improve and go on to have a respectable NFL career, Eagles teammate Brandon Graham isn’t really the most relatable example. It’s time for the seemingly annual reminder that Graham’s progression was derailed by a major knee injury as a rookie. He essentially missed the following season, and was buried on the depth chart upon returning. A year later, the defense switched to a 3-4, which was an adjustment as well. Yet, time and time again, Graham would perform at a high level whenever he got into games, finally earning his starting job back in 2015. Agholor has been a starter the past two seasons, and aside from a high ankle sprain his rookie year, he’s been relatively healthy. What’s the excuse here? Agholor may be a late bloomer, but Graham’s experience breaking into the league was vastly different.

The revelation that Vinny Curry was affected by a knee injury last season can be taken one of two ways. Some may see it as an excuse for his modest performance after signing a massive contract extension a year ago, which currently looks like an expensive mistake. I prefer to view the injury news as another reason to give Curry a slight pass. We’ve all seen what an explosive pass rusher he could be, racking up 9.0 sacks in 2014 while playing only one-third of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. If he was hampered by the knee -- Curry admitted wearing a brace for much of the season -- that could certainly help explain why he often seemed invisible. Even if he simply wasn’t very good, Curry has another opportunity to prove himself in 2017. Might as well take the optimistic outlook.

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is teaming up with Mayor Kenney, the city of Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross, and the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation to help protect you from the sun's harmful rays.

As part of the Sun Smart America initiative, the Phillies will place 12 sunscreen dispensers around Citizens Bank Park in addition to 6 dispensers located elsewhere around the city. 

This Sunday, May 28th, is also Melanoma Awareness Day at the ballpark when the Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds at 1:35. 

Schmidt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and try to promote the importance of protecting one's skin from the sun. He knows from a trying personal experience.

"The sun almost took my life," Schmidt told the Palm Beach Post after his battle with skin cancer. He spent months going through heavy radiation and chemotherapy and is currently cancer free.

The sunscreen dispensers at the ballpark can be found at all entry gates as well as on the Rooftop, Pavillion, and Terrace levels beginning on Sunday.