Eagles

Eagles, big RB LeGarrette Blount agree to 1-year deal

Eagles, big RB LeGarrette Blount agree to 1-year deal

The Eagles have found their bruising running back. 

The team on Wednesday morning agreed to a one-year deal with 6-foot, 250-pound LeGarrette Blount. 

Blount, 30, became a free agent after the 2016 season with the Patriots. In 2016, he rushed for 1,168 yards and 18 touchdowns. Those 18 rushing touchdowns were a franchise record for the Patriots. It was also the highest number for any back since Adrian Peterson in 2009. 

To put those 18 rushing touchdowns into perspective, the entire Eagles roster had just 16 rushing touchdowns in 2016. 

Last season, the Eagles ran the ball 26 times on 3rd or 4th down with one or two yards to go and converted a first down just 16 times (61.5 percent); just eight teams were worse. Blount should help them in those situations. He was 13 for 19 with five touchdowns in those situations. 

“We’re always looking for complementary players when we go over our roster and positions,” Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman said in a statement released by the team. “Obviously, LeGarrette had a tremendous amount of success with New England last year, rushing for over 1,000 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns and winning a Super Bowl. He sets the tempo for your team as a running back.

“He can run between the tackles and he can drag tacklers down the field. He can do everything you look for in the running game. He had runs of plus-20 yards (Blount had seven rushes of 20-plus yards last season, tied for sixth-most in the league) and he’s won two Super Bowls in the last four years. For us, people are going to see that his size is what jumps out at you, but he’s also got quick feet for a big man. He has a complementary skill set that works well in our backfield.”

According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Blount's deal can be worth up to $2.8 million, which breaks up into a $1.25M base and $1.55M in incentives. The Eagles entered Wednesday with an NFL-low $2.55 million in salary cap space. 

Blount's 2016 was just the second 1,000-yard season of his career and his 1,161 yards were a career high. Blount does have a career yards-per-rush average of 4.4, although his average in 2016 was 3.9. 

The Eagles seemed to be in desperate need of a bigger running back to pair with Wendell Smallwood (5-10, 208), Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) and Donnel Pumphrey (5-8, 176), and it appears they've found their answer in Blount, a seven-year veteran. (Ryan Mathews is still technically on the roster but is likely to be cut once he's healthy.) 

The Eagles are trying to build long-term and signing a 30-year-old running back might not seem like the way to do that, but it's at least just a one-year deal for Blount, who will offer Carson Wentz another weapon as the franchise quarterback enters Year 2. 

Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

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Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

The Eagles ended up scoring the final 30 points of Sunday's game in North Texas to crush the Cowboys 37-9. 

They didn't start off so hot though. 

In fact, the Eagles were down 9-7 at halftime, so when they got the ball back to start the second half, it was a pretty important drive. 

On first down, Jay Ajayi ran for 8 yards. On the next play, he went 1 yard. 

That set up a 3rd-and-1 and one of Doug Pederson's best and gutsiest play calls of the game. Out of an unusual look, the Eagles ran a screen play to Brent Celek that picked up 28 yards and helped them continue a scoring drive. 

"It was a great call," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Great feel and call from coach. We're meeting the night before. He and I always meet on Saturday night, the night before (the game) for an hour, hour and a half, just going through the call sheet, talking about what he's going to call, why he's going to call it. And we're bouncing things back and forth. 

"That was one I knew he was going to call. He was just waiting for the opportunity to call that play. Had a good sense."

Let's take a closer look at the play: 

Here's a look just before the snap. The Eagles are using a "tackle over" formation. You'll notice Lane Johnson is lined up inside Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Celek (circled) is lined up as the right tackle. 

The Eagles didn't motion into this look. They came out in it, with all three tight ends to the right side of the line. Trey Burton is lined up like a fullback. When the Cowboys see this, they load up that side of the defensive line, prepared for a run on 3rd-and-short. 

Carson Wentz takes the snap and begins to roll right for the play fake. Celek (still circled in red) engages and holds his block for a couple seconds. "Celek did a great job of selling it and good execution," Reich said. 

With the play going right, the Cowboys' linebackers are going with it. 

Here's the other angle just after Celek releases his block. The Cowboys' corner on the defensive right is blitzing, but with Wentz rolling right, he won't have enough time to get to him. 

Marcus Johnson, who was the outside receiver on the offensive left is running a go route, which will drive the safety out of the play. That leaves a ton of space open on that side of the field. 

 

It takes a perfect throw from Wentz and it wasn't easy to get off. Because of the blitzing corner, he needs to throw off his back foot and will need to loft the ball over the defensive end, who never gained an inch on Vaitai. 

 

At the point of the catch, Celek would have already had the first down. He has the ball for a short gain but rumbles ahead into open space for a 28-yarder, his longest catch of the last two seasons.  

This was a play the Eagles practiced during the week, but Reich said it looked just OK. According to Reich, those types of plays usually look better live in games than they do in practice. 

It certainly worked. 

"You want to hear defensive players swear," Chris Collinsworth said on the NBC broadcast, "that play probably does it more than any other."

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

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Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to reverse course from Rob’s Rants and express what I’m thankful for in Philadelphia sports. Truth be told, with the football team having the best record in the NFL and the basketball team having two dynamic, budding superstars and playoffs in their sights for the first time in a long time, things are pretty good around these parts. So let’s show a little gratitude.

Eagles
Where to start? Before this season, the hope was a playoff appearance. After 10 games, a division title, a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC are all real possibilities. This team is complete, laser-focused, well-coached and talented. Further, they have a second-year quarterback in Carson Wentz whose skill is only matched by his work ethic and football IQ. This city has always loved a tough defense and that’s exactly what they have. They are physical from the deep, defensive line to the surprising cornerbacks. The Saints, Vikings, Rams and Panthers are right there on the Eagles’ tail, so nothing is a given, but I just don’t see this team collapsing. I love that they can beat you in a multitude of ways whether it’s Wentz’s arm, a punishing running attack, a ferocious pass rush, or out-scheming the opposition. We are in for an amazing ride with this group.

Sixers
Ben Simmons has 11 double-doubles in his first 16 games in the NBA. That‘s the most by any player in that span of time in his first season since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. His ability to finish with both hands is remarkable. If you never watched him shoot a jump shot or a free throw, you would have no idea he is left-handed. His size, power, handle and ambidextrousness mask his inability or willingness to pull the trigger from the outside. And by the looks of his stats and what the eyeball tells you, he’s doing just fine. Mr. Meat Pie is averaging 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. Then there’s the big fella. Joel Embiid is a once-in-a-generation talent, who by his own admission is not even in basketball shape yet. His Tinseltown two-step where he throttled both L.A. teams out there may have been the highlight of this short season thus far. But Embiid shows on a nightly basis that if he stays healthy, he’s capable of leading this teams to multiple championships. The Wells Fargo Center is back to the A.I. days of being the place to be for a basketball game. It’s electric.

Flyers
The Flyers' season has been very up and down. But there are certainly things to be thankful for when it comes to the orange and black. The first line of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, centered by Sean Couturier has accounted for 69 points through 20 games. Whether it was Dave Hakstol or Ron Hextall’s call, the decision to move Giroux to the wing and insert Couturier as the top-line centerman was a stroke of genius. Ivan Provorov deserves a plate full of kudos himself for his machine-like play.

Phillies
The Phillies' youthful core of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and soon-to-be Scott Kingery has the makings of a nucleus to be proud of going forward. Aaron Nola showed himself capable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. There’s much work to be done here but the club appears headed in the right direction.

College Hoops
Let’s give college hoops a little love as well. Villanova has dominated the headlines of late and rightfully so but there’s a possibility that at least three of the local teams will be dancing come April.
      
So pass the stuffing and enjoy the gravy, things are looking up in Philadelphia sports.