Eagles

LeGarrette Blount the 'Santa Claus' of Eagles' RB room

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USA Today Images/Dave Zangaro, NBCSP

LeGarrette Blount the 'Santa Claus' of Eagles' RB room

You could understand if LeGarrette Blount was frustrated these days.
 
After getting nearly 19 carries a game for the Patriots last year, leading the NFL in touchdowns and helping the Pats win a Super Bowl, Blount now finds himself sharing the Eagles' backfield with a cast of thousands.
 
His carries are down 34 percent. He rarely gets the ball in the red zone anymore — just four carries in the last five games. He hasn't had more than 16 carries all year. In the Eagles' only loss, he didn't get the ball at all. 

On top of all that, just as he was getting into a groove, the Eagles made a crowded backfield even more crowded when they acquired Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins.
 
Heck, most people would be frustrated.
 
"People on the outside might think LeGarrette is frustrated, but he’s not frustrated one bit," Corey Clement said. "He’s the happiest guy in our room that we have."
 
Despite the lack of carries, Blount has been terrific in his first year in Philly. He's rushed for 658 yards in 11 games and needs to average 68 yards the rest of the year to become the first back to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons for different teams since Thomas Jones with the Jets and Bears in 2006 and 2007.
 
Most impressive is that 4.8 average.

That's beefy for anybody. But for a back in his 30s? It's a rarity.
 
Only eight running backs in NFL history have gained over 900 yards with an average that high after turning 30 — most recently Fred Jackson of the Bills and Willis McGahee of the Broncos in 2011.
 
The only NFC backs to rush for 900 yards and average 4.8 yards per carry in their 30s are Tony Canadeo of the Packers in 1949, Warrick Dunn of the Falcons in 2005 and the Giants’ Tiki Barber in 2005 and 2006.
 
"I've been a little bit surprised at his athleticism and agility," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "It was more than I thought. 

"I said to him last week in practice, and I wasn't exaggerating, I thought he looked faster in practice last week than he's looked all year. So a credit to him and how he's continuing to work hard during the season and how hard he goes in practice."
 
Blount said he doesn't feel any different than earlier in the season, but the last three games, he's averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
 
He's had five games this year with 12 carries and a 4.8 average. Only eight running backs in their 30s have had more in a season.
 
“I don’t necessarily feel any faster or any slower," Blount said. "We’ve been working our tails off, all of us have, so maybe I’m seeing things a little bit quicker."
 
Blount says he's no different. Lane Johnson disagrees.
 
"He's trimmed down," Johnson said. "I mean, you see him walking around. He's got abs now. I don't think that's something he had in training camp. But yeah, he's really trimmed down. Lean. He's a lot leaner than he has been. If that makes you quicker around the ball, I'm fine with that. He looks good."
 
Is he leaner? Stronger? Faster?
 
Who knows? All we know is the LeGarrette Blount we saw in training camp is definitely not the guy we're seeing now.
 
"I don’t know what it is," Blount said. "But I’m definitely really comfortable at this point."
 
It can be tough feeling comfortable in an offense where you have no idea how many carries you're going to get week to week.
 
But Blount hasn't complained once. Even when he inexplicably got no carries against the Chiefs.
 
"Some games you can get no carries, some games you can get 10 carries, some games you can get 15 carries," he said. "It just goes based on how the game’s going, based on how the flow of the game is going, based on the score, what we need, position on the field. There’s a lot of things that play a factor into how many carries you get.
 
"You can’t go into the game and expect 15 or 20 carries and you go out there and get six. You just set yourself up for disappointment. I just go out there every game and whenever the opportunity presents itself I try to take advantage."
 
That selfless attitude has had a ripple effect on this team.
 
"You just know in his heart that he's in it for the team," Reich said. "And that's really the way it feels."
 
Other than Blount, this is a young group of running backs. Kenjon Barner is 27, but Ajayi is 24, Clement and Wendell Smallwood are 23, injured Donnel Pumphrey is 22.
 
Blount knows that the room goes as he goes.
 
If he showed any signs of being selfish or me-first, the whole delicate balance of a four-man rotation could easily collapse, and that could have a negative impact on the entire locker room.
 
Instead, he's emerged as a true team leader.
 
“I look at my role as, you know, obviously a guy that’s been in this league a long time," he said. "I know a lot of the younger guys look up to me and they look at what I do and how I prepare and how I perform and they take notice of it.
 
"But for the most part, these guys grew up fast, they’re young and they had to grow up fast because they’re being thrown into the fire early, so they look up to me as far as how long I’ve been in the league and how productive I've been and things like that, but I think for the most part, they’ve got it pretty under control."
 
Even with Darren Sproles out for the year, the Eagles are No. 2 in the NFL running the ball, behind only the Jaguars.
 
And Blount is the glue that holds it all together.
 
"You would have thought LeGarrette was just Santa Claus out there," Clement said. "He’s very giving. He wants everyone else to do great as well, and as a teammate that’s what we want.
 
"He just comes in with that energy and that swag. He knows how to win games, he knows how to win championships. So why not follow a guy like him, go in his footsteps, and just keep learning."

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

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Rick Lovato

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

After the Eagles beat the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII, there will be a Vince Lombardi Trophy living in Philadelphia permanently. 

There will also be one on Rick Lovato forever. 

On Wednesday, the Eagles' long snapper tweeted out a photo of some new ink, a huge Lombardi Trophy on the left side of his torso. Lovato isn't the only Eagles player or fan to get a tattoo after the Super Bowl, but it looks like his tattoo might be one of the biggest. 

On Thursday, Lovato went back on Twitter to explain why he decided to get the trophy tattooed on himself. 

Two years ago, in April of 2016, Lovato visited the grave of Vince Lombardi, which happens to be in his hometown of Middletown, N.J. He said that's also where his grandfather is buried. 

"I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave," Lovato explained in his tweet. 

A couple months before Lovato's visit, MMQB's Jenny Vrentas took a trip to Mount Olivet Cemetery to learn a little bit about the legendary coach's unassuming grave.

When Lovato visited Lombardi's final resting place, the long snapper was still playing for the Packers. After a college career at Old Dominion, Lovato spent that first summer with the Bears but didn't make the team and wasn't signed by the Packers until December of 2015 when their long-snapper suffered an injury. 

Lovato spent the rest of the season with the Packers and was with them for the next whole spring and summer. But just a few months after his visit to the cemetery, he was released. 

During the 2016 season, he was signed by Washington to fill in for 10 days before he was again cut. Lovato was back working at his family's restaurant, "Joyce's Subs and Pizza" in Lincroft, N.J. after that, but Jon Dorenbos got hurt and the Eagles needed a replacement. Lovato did a good enough job at the end of last season to warrant a position battle this past summer. He won the competition and was the Eagles' long snapper in their Super Bowl season. 

It seems like the tattoo is a reward for finally making it to the pinnacle. 

Here's Lovato's full explanation of his new ink and what it means to him: 

"For those who want some more background on my tattoo, 2 years ago I visited Vince Lombardi's grave in my hometown of Middletown, NJ where my grandfather is buried. Not having a full time job in the NFL yet and not knowing where this career would take me, I trusted my passion and faith to keep reaching my dreams. Since then I was cut two more times and could've given up on those dreams, but it made me want it more than ever. After a heated battle with my friend Jon Dorenbos in training camp I had finally found my place in this league. Through the ups and the downs of my first full season in the NFL, I have fulfilled my dream of playing and winning the Super Bowl. It has brought me more joy in my life than I could've ever imagined. I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave. This tattoo means much more than just winning a Super Bowl. It represents my journey, everyone who's supported me and my faith in God." 

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — Young CBs and a new return man?

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry. Today is Darby to Ertz. 

Ronald Darby
Roob: I’m still not completely sold on Darby. He made some big plays but also needs to be more consistent. That’s probably true of every young cornerback, and Darby certainly has all the tools to be a very good corner in the NFL. He just turned 24, he’s got world-class speed and when he gets his hands on the ball he’s always a threat to go the distance. The Eagles have a whole stable of young corners, and he’s in a similar position to Jay Ajayi in that he has one year left on his rookie four-year deal with another team, an AFC East team — in this case the Bills — and 2018 will give the Eagles a long look at him with a full training camp and season in an Eagles uniform. Darby will definitely be here in 2018. Beyond that, we’ll see.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: When you think about Darby's road to becoming a Super Bowl champion last season, it's pretty crazy. He gets traded to the Eagles during training camp, has to catch up and learn the defense and then dislocates his ankle in Week 1. He eventually came back as the Eagles' starter and never looked back. He's still just 24 and is really talented. Darby is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have a decision to make about him soon enough. But for now, this is a no-brainer. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rashard Davis
Roob: Davis came and went on the practice squad throughout the year, but he was along for the Super Bowl ride in Minneapolis as a practice squad receiver, so the Eagles must like him. Davis had a decorated career at James Madison, where he was a record-setting punt returner, and that’s something the Eagles could be looking for depending what happens with Darren Sproles. Davis remains a long-shot, but he is an interesting guy. Stranger things have happened. Especially around here lately. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Davis didn't even spend all year on the Eagles' practice squad in 2017, but the team did bring him back and he'll be with them this spring. An undrafted receiver out of James Madison University, there's not a ton of people who even know about him. His best chance to make the Eagles' roster is as a returner, especially if Kenjon Barner isn't back. Not completely out of the question, but he has a steep uphill climb. 

Verdict: GOES

Rasul Douglas
Roob: I really like Douglas. What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for with intelligence and preparation. He’s a physical corner, likes to support the run, a sure tackler. He started five games while Ronald Darby was out and played surprisingly well for a rookie third-round pick, even picking up two interceptions in the first month of his pro career, both in key situations in close games. Whether or not he eventually moves into the slot or even safety remains to be seen, but I expect Douglas to be around here for quite a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Douglas had a pretty weird year. He was a third-round pick and would have had the opportunity to win a starting job but struggled some early during training camp. If he didn't, the team might not have made the move to trade for Darby. But when Darby went down, Douglas became a starter and played really well, finishing with two interceptions. He's not the fastest guy, but his length and ballhawk skills make up for it. With Darby and Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones all in the mix, how does Douglas fit in? That's not clear yet, but he'll be back for his second year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dannell Ellerbe
Roob: Ellerbe gave the Eagles functional linebacker play after joining the Eagles late in the season to provide defensive depth in place of Jordan Hicks. He was solid against the run and provided veteran leadership during the postseason run. He essentially did exactly what the Eagles brought him in to do. But Ellerbe is 32 and has nine years under his belt, and the Eagles will no doubt go younger at linebacker moving forward. Whatever happens, Ellerbe now has two Super Bowl rings — one with the Ravens and one with the Eagles. Not a bad career!

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles were looking for a veteran to play on base downs, so they went out and got Ellerbe from the street in November. The 32-year-old eventually became a starter, but never played much. He then missed the NFC Championship Game with an injury and played just a few snaps in the Super Bowl. The Eagles need to upgrade and get younger at linebacker. Ellerbe shouldn't be back. 

Verdict: GOES

Jake Elliott
Roob: Yeah, he missed too many PATs, but the positives sure outweigh the negatives with Elliott. If Elliott didn’t prove his worth with the 61-yard game-winner against the Giants, he sure did with fourth-quarter field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the Super Bowl. Those are incredibly tough pressure kicks with the whole world watching, and Elliott crushed them. Caleb Sturgis is a very good kicker. Elliott is a potentially great one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: This time last year, Elliott was still at Memphis getting ready for the draft. A lot has happened since then. He went in the fifth round to the Bengals, but he lost the competition in Cincinnati, was placed on their practice squad, and stayed there until Sturgis got hurt in the first week of the season. Elliott came to the Eagles and in his second game, he became a hero when he made a 61-yard, game-winner against the Giants. The crazy thing about it is, if Elliott missed the 46-yarder just before the game-winner, he would have been 2-for-5 and in jeopardy of getting cut. But that didn't happen and now it's his job for good. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Roob: Ertz has established himself as a top-three tight end in this league, behind Gronk and probably a little behind Travis Kelce, although it’s close. As good as Ertz was during the regular season, earning his first Pro Bowl honor, he was massive in the postseason, with 8-for-93 against the Vikings and 7-for-67 with two huge catches in the Super Bowl — the two-yard gain on a fourth-quarter 4th-and-1 with the Eagles trailing by one at their own 45 and his go-ahead touchdown a few moments later. Ertz has the sixth-most catches by any tight end in NFL history after five seasons and the 10th-most yards. He’s already the greatest tight end in Eagles history, and he just turned 27. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There's no question about it. Ertz has grown into one of the best and most complete tight ends in the NFL. He's one of the best weapons on the team and he's going to have a chance to continue to grow his already-impressive chemistry with Carson Wentz. 

Verdict: STAYS