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

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."

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones cleared to practice

On a day that will be remembered most for a player the Eagles lost to an injury (see story), they did learn that they are getting another player back after a long injury rehab.

The Eagles are finally going to get a look this week at rookie second-round pick Sidney Jones at practice. Whether he actually gets into a football game this year is still in doubt.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that nine months after he blew out his Achilles and eight months after the Eagles drafted him, Jones has finally been medically cleared to practice and will participate to some extent Wednesday when the Eagles get back to work following their win over the Rams Sunday in Los Angeles.

“We're just to the point of just want to see him out there running around, doing football activities outside of the normal workouts that he's been doing,” Pederson said Monday. “Just really changing direction and doing more football work this week.”

Jones tore his left Achilles during his pro day workout on March 11 and has spent the entire season so far on the reserve-non football injury list, which is for players with preexisting conditions dating before the first day of practice.

The Eagles had a window running from Week 7 until this week to activate Jones for practice, and once he practices on Wednesday, they’ll have 21 days to either activate him to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the year.

The Eagles have the luxury of taking their time with Jones, thanks to the play of starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, slot corner Patrick Robinson and fourth corner Rasul Douglas.

Before his injury, Jones was projected as a first-round draft pick. The Eagles got him with the 43rd pick, but even if he doesn’t play until opening day next year, he will still be only 22 years old and under contract through 2020.

Jones had nine interceptions, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 8½ tackles for loss and 145 tackles in 40 career games for the University of Washington.

It remains to be seen where Jones will fit in next year, but Robinson, although he has played well, is due to become a free agent this offseason and turns 31 in September.

Douglas and Jones are signed through 2020, Mills through 2019 and Darby through 2018.

Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

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Doug Pederson adamant Eagles can overcome the ultimate loss

Remember when the Eagles lost Jason Peters and Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles and plenty of folks thought the season was over? 

Doug Pederson does. 

Sure, this isn't exactly an apples-to-oranges comparison. Losing a left tackle or a middle linebacker or a running back isn't the same thing as losing an MVP-level quarterback entering his prime. It would be unfair to suggest they're the same. 

But Pederson has seen his team hurdle over every obstacle this year. With the biggest one yet now in front of it, it's his job to convince his team it can do it again. 

On Monday, Pederson tried to convince fans who have prematurely canceled Christmas. 

"To the fans out there, you can't lose faith," Pederson said. "This has been a resilient football team all season long. If there's ever an opportunity for me as a head football coach to rally the troops, now might be the time. 

"We just came off a tremendous victory to win the NFC East. Guys are riding extremely high. It's a little bittersweet. But you know what? We've got the Giants this week and we've got an opportunity to ... if you win Sunday, you get a first-round bye. There's still a lot to play for. That's what's exciting about this season. We're still playing for the opportunity to hopefully be in that game."

Pederson, just after delivering news of a torn ACL, was adamant that his team can overcome the loss of Carson Wentz. 

"It sure can," he said. "Heck yeah." 

It won't be easy. Before leaving Sunday's game, Wentz threw his 33rd touchdown pass of the 2017 season, breaking the Eagles' franchise record that had stood since 1961. But more than touchdown passes, Wentz made special plays seemingly every week, plays that only a handful of quarterbacks in the world can make. 

Nick Foles is a pretty adequate backup, and he did a nice job when called upon against the Rams. But he ain't Carson Wentz. Everyone, including his teammates, knows that. 

It's just that they don't have time to wallow in the loss of their superstar leader. Next weekend might be huge. 

A win against the Giants would earn the Eagles a first-round bye. A win against the Giants, paired with a Vikings loss, would earn them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After another obstacle was dropped in front of them on Monday morning, the Eagles can still help themselves. 

Pederson's role in all this is vital. He has to be the guy to hold it all together.  

"It's huge," he said. "I think even the guys felt it after the game yesterday. We just rally and we support the next guy. From my standpoint, you don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat, you just put your head down and you go to work. You get everybody ready to play. It was evident yesterday when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory in that game. That right there is a great step in the right direction."