Eagles

Doug Pederson trying to find ways to get LeGarrette Blount on the field

Doug Pederson trying to find ways to get LeGarrette Blount on the field

Officially, LeGarrette Blount played six snaps for the Eagles on Sunday. Blount finished the game with one reception for no gain, no rushing attempts — and no words from head coach Doug Pederson following a 27-20 loss to the Chiefs.

On Monday, Pederson revealed he did not talk to Blount about the reduced role afterward, nor did the veteran running back approach him. Some might view that as surprising given the circumstances. After all, the last time Blount finished a game with zero carries was with the Steelers in 2014 and he was released the next day.

Blount doesn't appear to be in danger of being cut by the Eagles — yet — but even Pederson can understand why the running back might be unhappy with the current workload.

"I would be worried if he wasn't, you know what I'm saying?" Pederson said. "If he was the other way, if he was just like sort of matter-of-fact, ho-hum, not caring … it just shows his passion that he wants to play and be involved, and I get that."

To his credit, Blount didn't express any dissatisfaction with his role in the locker room postgame. He took the high road, even going so far as to praise teammate Darren Sproles, who took 50 snaps at running back for the Eagles on Sunday.

But there were signs of Blount's displeasure all over. CSN's Derrick Gunn reported the eighth-year veteran was the first player in the Eagles' locker room when the game ended. Blount later lashed out at fans on Twitter who complained how his usage — or lack thereof — affected their fantasy football teams.

Blount is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots who rushed for 1,100 yards and led the NFL with 18 touchdowns last season. Rest assured, he wants the ball.

"Obviously, my job, (Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich's) job, we have to find ways to get these guys on the field," Pederson said. "We feel like our running backs are good running backs. They've proven that.

"In LeGarrette's case, we still have a lot of confidence in him, and we'll find ways to get him on the field."

Pederson reiterated situational football and game flow dictated Blount's lack of playing time in Kansas City, the same as it did for all of the Eagles' running backs.

"We've got roles for all the guys," Pederson said. "LeGarrette has a role, Sproles has a role, (Wendell Smallwood), and we even had a little role (for Corey Clement), a little piece of the pie.

"A lot of times when you're in these games like this and you struggle to run your core runs, it becomes hard, and then you put yourself in a 2nd-and-12, 2nd-and-13, or even a first-down sack. Now you're going uphill.

"Yesterday I believe we had seven 3rd-and-10-plusses again, and then there were another five 3rd-and-7s, and it's unacceptable. We can't be in that many long-yardage situations in these football games. We have to focus on the run game, and we have to get the run game fixed, and we have to have a great plan going forward and commit to that, and it just takes pressure off your quarterback as well."

Down and distance certainly was a factor. Listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, Blount has always been a minimally effective receiver out of the backfield. It can be difficult to get a one-dimensional player like that into certain types of games.

Although, was that truly the case here? Sure, the offense was routinely behind the sticks, but Eagles never trailed by more than three points until 6:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pederson acknowledged the Eagles wanted to attack the Chiefs' secondary, while he simultaneously tried to make the case he simply couldn't work Blount into the game.

"This front is a good front," Pederson said. "They put six, they put seven, at times there were eight in the box. They choke your tight ends, meaning the guy who's right over the top of the tight end. It's hard to find run lanes against a defense that way.

"And so much man coverage, the ability to shoot the ball down the field in the passing game was where I felt like was going to be our strength in this game, was the area that I focused on. My aggressive play-calling was to attack down the field."

That meant plenty of work for Sproles, who carried 10 times for 48 yards, along with two receptions for 30 yards. Sproles also happens to be best pass protector in the backfield of the bunch, so it seemed clear his constant presence in the game was no accident.

"By no means was it a game plan designed specifically for Darren," Pederson said. "Everybody had a role in this game. We just didn't get to that role in that particular time in the game."

With 14 snaps, three carries and three targets against the Chiefs, even Smallwood saw significantly more action than Blount. Technically, Blount did carry the ball one time, only to have the play negated by a penalty.

This could not have been the role Blount envisioned upon signing in May — and it may not change. Blount is 31 years old, has not looked explosive with the touches he's had, and the Eagles are paying him only $1.25 million for the season, according to OverTheCap. The club wasn't necessarily counting on him to be the featured back.

Based on Pederson's play-calling and ambivalence toward Blount after a game in which he was on the field for just eight percent of the offensive snaps, the head coach doesn't appear to be counting on it, either.

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

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AP Images

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." 

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

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USA Today Images

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has faced Carson Wentz just three times so far.

That's all he needed to think Wentz is special.  

"I think he's progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen really," Gruden said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday. "His ability to make plays in the pocket, his ability to stay in the pocket in the face of a rush and still deliver balls accurately, his command of the offense. 

"I think he's already proven this short in his career that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quite frankly, and he's going to be for a long time. And I don't know how he got to Philadelphia. And I'm very upset about that." 

Wentz is 1-2 against Washington in his first three games, but that first win came in this season's opener on the road. In that game, Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, for a passer rating of 96.8. 

And Wentz has gotten even better since then. He's now the favorite in Vegas to win the NFL MVP. 

When asked how daunting it might become to face Wentz twice per season for the foreseeable future, Gruden pointed out that it's similar to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Then he pointed out they still have to face Eli Manning twice per season. 

"Every week it seems like we're playing against an excellent quarterback and knowing that Wentz is going to be there for a long period of time just puts a few more gray hairs on my head," Gruden said. "But love the competition and it's our job to get after him and make him uncomfortable." 

While Wentz is clearly the Eagles' quarterback of the future, things are a little cloudier in Washington, where Kirk Cousins is in his second year of playing on a franchise tag. 

Gruden said the "intent" is to have Cousins for the long-term, but it's already been a long saga and there's still no deal in place. 

Cousins has had a crazy career path. He began as Robert Griffin III's backup after being taken three rounds later in the same draft in 2012. But he won the starting job and he's started every game for Washington the last three seasons. 

Thursday, on a conference call with Philly reporters, Cousins said he thought there was a good chance the Eagles were going to draft him in 2012. He felt that way after meeting with Howie Roseman and Andy Reid before the draft. But instead, the Eagles took Nick Foles 14 spots ahead of him. 

After watching the Eagles rotate quarterback since then, Cousins doesn't have any hard feelings. 

"I think the Eagles have ended up with the guy that they want," Cousins said. "I think they're really excited about Carson Wentz and for good reason. They're one of the best teams in the league on third down, and some of the plays he's making off-schedule are very special. I think they're very content and I'd like to think the Redskins are as well. Hopefully, it can make for a great rivalry that a lot of fans can get behind and get excited about, hopefully, for many years ahead."