NFL

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

LeGarrette Blount advises Eagles to 'stay humble' after 5-1 start

With a 5-1 record, the Eagles sit all alone atop the division and conference standings, and are tied for the best mark in the NFL. Their quarterback was recently given the best odds of winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award. So, yes, right now, a trip to the Super Bowl seems to be very much on the table for this squad.

But take it from LeGarrette Blount, somebody who’s won a couple of world championships — the Eagles can’t afford to get caught up in the hysteria right now.

“We could lose 10 in a row,” Blount said Tuesday. “We could go 6-10, so we don't want to jump the gun, jump to conclusions. We want to make sure we take it week by week, day by day, keep a level head and make sure we're going to be ready for whoever the next opponent is.”

Blount is one of only five Eagles players with a Super Bowl ring and the only member of the roster who owns multiple. The veteran running back won two of the last three years with the New England Patriots organization, which has been a perennial championship contender for the better part of the last two decades.

In other words, Blount knows better than anybody inside the Eagles’ locker room exactly what it takes to not only reach the big game and come away victorious but also how to sustain that success.

“You have to stay grounded,” Blount said. “You have to stay humble and make sure that all the guys that are in the building are on the same page. The coaches, the staff, everybody is on the same page, ignoring the noise, not worrying about what other teams are doing, what other teams' records are — just worrying about ourselves and locked into us.”

Easier said than done given the week the Eagles just had.

After going to Carolina and upending a tough Panthers squad on Thursday night, the Eagles watched as massive blows were being dealt to some of their stiffest competition over the weekend. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, potentially crippling one of the NFC’s elites for the remainder of the season. And Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is awaiting word on the status of a six-game suspension that could seriously hamper the division rival.

But the noise can also be Eagles fans and their exponentially rising expectations, or a media that’s quick to point out any tiny flaw and raise controversy.

Blount has experienced the latter firsthand. Two weeks into the 2017 campaign, he finished a game without a carry — an Eagles’ loss — and was averaging 3.0 yards per carry going back to the preseason. The constant questions coming from reporters about his role easily could have become a distraction.

In the four weeks since, Blount has 344 yards on 56 carries for a 6.1 average. He never allowed the noise to get to him, instead becoming a big reason behind the ongoing four-game winning streak.

“We know what we've been doing to get to this point,” Blount said. “We know what it takes, so we just have to buy in to continue to do that, and continue to do everything that it takes to continue winning games.

“A big part of it is just making sure you ignore the noise, don't listen to the outsiders, everything that is in house stays in house, and that you make sure and know that everybody that you see on TV isn't in your corner. Sometimes that can discourage the younger guys. Every now and then you'll hear them say, 'Oh, did you hear them say this,' or, 'Did you hear them say that? Or, 'Did you see this,' or 'Did you see that?'

“The big part is making sure that everybody ignores that stuff.”

Blount has been through extraordinary highs and lows in his football career and learned to maintain an even keel. But Eagles leadership has also done a tremendous job insulating players from the kinds of rumblings that have a tendency to create discord and cause entire seasons to come off the rails.

For evidence, look no further than rumors that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was trying to undermine head coach Doug Pederson — and how quickly such talk dissipated.

“The veteran groups have a lot to do with it,” Blount said. “I also think the coaches have a lot to do with it — keeping the guys grounded, keeping the guys to where we have to continue to come here and work if we want to continue the success.

“Most of the young guys, all of them have bought into the program, and everybody's locked in and knows their role and what they want to do.”

While Blount wouldn’t go so far as to draw parallels between the ways the Eagles and the Patriots handle distractions, it’s clear he’s been able to quickly establish a bond with his new teammates and coaches since signing in May.

“Every team is different,” Blount said. “I can't compare this team to the New England teams, or any other team. We have a really close-knit team. We believe in each other. Everybody loves each other and we have each other’s backs.”

As far as Blount’s performance on the field is concerned, the best may be still to come. He’s finished with at least 12 carries in each of the last four games and looked explosive and elusive while doing it. And with extra rest between a Thursday night game in Carolina and this Monday’s contest at home against Washington, the bruising runner said he’s feeling refreshed.

Most of all, it sounds as though Blount is in a great frame of mind and feeling comfortable with all of his surroundings. And if you’re looking for a great read on the Eagles’ situation through six games, just listen to the guy who’s come to expect confetti and parades in February.

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

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USA Today Images

Judge grants Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott reprieve, cleared for 49ers in Week 7

NEW YORK -- Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott was granted another legal reprieve Tuesday night in the running back's fight to avoid a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

A New York federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the league's suspension, clearing Elliott to play Sunday at San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty's ruling came five days after a federal appeals court overturned a Texas court's injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.

Crotty granted the request for the restraining order pending a hearing before the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Failla, who is on vacation.

The NFL was ordered to appear before Failla on or before Oct. 30 to argue why the suspension should not be blocked by a preliminary injunction -- the next step in the legal process -- until the court can rule on challenges the players' union brought against the suspension.

"We are confident our arguments will prevail in court when they are taken up again later this month," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, was barred from the team's facility Tuesday as players returned from their off week. The NFL placed him on the suspended list Friday, a day after the league's favorable ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement in August led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

In an opinion accompanying the ruling, Crotty agreed with the Texas judge who had backed the claims of Elliott's attorneys. Crotty wrote that Henderson's denial of testimony from Goodell and Thompson was significant because of credibility issues related to Thompson.

"In effect, (Elliott) was deprived of opportunities to explore pertinent and material evidence, which raises sufficiently serious questions," Crotty wrote.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the players' union, said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm -- among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted -- faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed. In his opinion, Crotty agreed.

Nash suggested during the hearing that the union was overstating its claims of irreparable harm.

"In their view, an NFL player missing six games is the end of the world," he said.

Brady managed to delay his suspension for a year through the union's court challenges. He served it to start last season, when the Patriots went 3-1 without him and later won the Super Bowl.

Elliott's case shifted to New York after the appeals court ordered the Texas court to dismiss Elliott's lawsuit, which Judge Amos Mazzant did earlier Tuesday.

A three-judge panel of the New Orleans court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because Henderson had yet to decide on the running back's NFL appeal.

Elliott's legal team indicated it intended to pursue rehearing before a larger panel of the appeals court while also filing for the restraining order in the Southern District of New York.

The NFL filed in the New York court after Elliott's NFL appeal was denied because the league considers it the proper venue as the home of its headquarters and the site of the hearings before Henderson. It's also where the NFL won the Brady case in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Eagles visit Dallas in Week 11 on Sunday night, Nov. 19. They host the Cowboys in Week 17 on New Year’s Eve.

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

NFL power rankings roundup: Eagles can taste top spot

After beating up on the Cardinals, 34-7, in Week 5, the Eagles traveled to North Carolina for a Thursday night matchup against the Panthers. The Birds would use another composed and meticulous performance from Carson Wentz to sneak past the Panthers, 28-23.

Wentz finished with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns — backing up his best performance of the season so far in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

A victory over the Panthers puts the Birds at 5-1. They now hold the best record in the NFC and a 1.5-game lead in the NFC East over the Redskins, who sit at 3-2.

Now the Eagles shift their attention to Washington, which is coming off of a 26-24 victory over the 49ers.

Before the Birds host Washington on Monday night, here's a roundup of where the Eagles landed in this week's national power rankings:

ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio: Up three spots to No. 2
Florio wrote, “Carson Wentz needs to avoid contact, or the Eagles won’t be able to avoid having to play multiple games without him.”

Wentz has been hit a total of 41 times this season on dropbacks, the eighth most in the NFL. And that doesn’t include the number of times he has been hit when running. Wentz has to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting hit because the Eagles would take a huge hit in performance, morale and confidence if he were to be out for a significant amount of time.

NFL.com's Elliot Harrison: Stayed at No. 2
Harrison wrote, “Two things I like — LeGarrette Blount getting 14 carries. Keep working him. Also, Nelson Agholor contributing big plays including the touchdown reception to end a second-half drive.”

Agholor received a lot of criticism the past two seasons because of his inability to catch the football and deservedly so. He has had a solid start to the season thus far. In total, he has caught 20 balls on 30 targets for 321 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns through six games this season are more than his total in his previous 28 games (three). Agholor has become a large part of the passing offense along with tight end Zach Ertz. Don’t expect it to change.

USA TODAY: Up three spots to No. 2
USA TODAY wrote, “Fletcher Cox leads front four that anchors league's best run defense and consistently jeopardizes quarterbacks without much blitz help."

Cox has been invaluable for the Birds this season and as a result, the run defense is in the top five. In the four games he has played this season, he has six total tackles and 2½ sacks. The Eagles haven’t been rushing more than four on most occasions and have been able to get to the quarterback with ease. Moving forward, Cox’s value is huge to disrupting opposing offenses because of his size and speed in the middle of the line.

Yahoo! Sports' Frank Schwab: Up two spots to No. 2
Schwab wrote, “A good argument can be made for them being No. 1. However, they played the No. 1 team and lost. It was a competitive game in Kansas City, but it’s still part of the resumes.”

Each rankings outlet used in this piece outside of The Washington Post is reluctant to put the Birds at the top spot. While losing to the Chiefs in a close one at Arrowhead could be the tiebreaker for most, I think it is worth considering the Eagles at No. 1. The Chiefs losing at home to a lost Steelers team is something to be taken note of for later.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: Up one spot at No. 2
Prisco wrote, “They are on a roll and showed at Carolina that they are one of the best teams right now. The defensive front is nasty.”

Last week, I wrote the game against Carolina was the Eagles’ biggest test thus far and they passed with flying colors. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated because of a late Carolina touchdown. Cam Newton didn’t have any time to throw and his three interceptions came as a result of the defensive front for the Birds stepping up once again.

The Washington Post's Mark Maske: Up two spots to No. 1
Maske wrote, “They have earned the top spot after an impressive triumph Thursday night at Carolina. Second-year QB Carson Wentz is getting better all the time while utilizing the help he has around him on a bolstered offense.”

Maske had the guts to put the Birds at the top and they have earned it. The fact of the matter is rankers can’t come to terms with the Eagles at the top because of what happened last year after a 3-1 start. Waiting in the wings on Monday night is Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who are looking for revenge after an embarrassing performance against the Eagles in Week 1.

ESPN: Up two spots to No. 2
ESPN wrote, “The 5-1 start to the Eagles' season is bolstered by the fact they've won three on the road. Now they get to play their next three at home, where they're 2-0 this season and 8-2 over the past two years.”

Lincoln Financial Field has been good to the Eagles over the last two seasons and fans should expect the Linc to be filled to capacity on Monday night. The buzz surrounding the team continues to grow exponentially. Now all the Birds have to do is keep the momentum going.