Eagles

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."

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."

Ronald Darby gets cheers from fellow DBs in 1st practice since injury

Ronald Darby gets cheers from fellow DBs in 1st practice since injury

There was a little more buzz around the Eagles' defensive backs at practice on Thursday. 

All eyes were on No. 41. 

For the first time since he left the season opener in Washington following a gruesome right ankle dislocation, cornerback Ronald Darby practiced on Thursday. He was limited and it seems rather unlikely he'll be able to play on Monday night, but it was still a boost for his teammates to see him back out on the field. 

"We were all just joking and letting him know the spotlight was on him," safety Rodney McLeod said. 

Doug Pederson said the "stars have to align" for Darby to play on Monday night against Washington (see story). So it seems unlikely. Still, it was a good sign to get him back to practice.

Darby was with the team from the start of Thursday's practice and went through the entire warmup and stretching period. He wore high black socks and didn't appear to have any sort of brace on his injured right ankle. 

When the Eagles broke into the individual portion of practice, Darby went through all of the backpedal drills; he was the last to go through each. 

So how did he look? 

"He looked good," corner Jalen Mills said. "The guy had some clean breaks. We did a couple deep-ball drills, you know, he jumped up and high-pointed the ball. A lot of DBs, we got excited when we saw him, cheering him on. He looked good."

Mills was maybe a little overly excited about how good Darby looked on Thursday. It was, after all, just his first day back. 

Defensive back Jaylen Watkins said Darby looked "better" but acknowledged it's "going to take time." Watkins pointed out Darby's recovery is largely about being able to trust his ankle and getting back into a groove. 

"He didn't do much but I think this is his first time being back with us in that capacity," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think he looked decent. I don't really know what to compare it to. Hopefully he feels good. I'm just concerned with him not having any kind of setbacks. I think he looked fine." 

What all of his defensive back teammates agreed on was that it was pretty crazy to see Darby practicing just seven weeks after he was carted off the field in Washington. At the time of the gruesome injury, it looked to be pretty obvious that Darby's season was over. 

When the play happened, Mills was on the other side of the field so he didn't see how bad the injury looked until after the game. He credited the training staff and Darby's dedication for getting him back on the field so soon. 

"In that moment, what you feel, for him to even be back out there at all, to have a possibility to get him back, is great," Jenkins said. "Because I think at first glance, everybody probably thought he was done for the season. Obviously, whenever he is 100 percent, he's going to instantly make our defense better."