A closer look at LeGarrette Blount's usage in New England

A closer look at LeGarrette Blount's usage in New England

The warning signs were all there when the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount in May. Yet, even those of us who were skeptical of the move couldn't necessarily have predicted Blount would go without a carry as early as Week 2.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson had his reasons for withholding the ball from Blount in Kansas City on Sunday. For starters, the offense was stuck in 2nd- or 3rd-and-long quite a bit. And in Pederson's defense, Blount hasn't done anything to justify a heavy workload.

Although, after Blount rushed 299 times for 1,161 yards and an NFL-best 18 touchdowns with the Patriots in 2016, some folks simply aren't going to buy the latter explanation. If he was good enough to be the primary ball carrier for the eventual Super Bowl champions, he ought to be good enough to get some looks in the Eagles' depleted backfield. At least, that's the thought process for Pederson's critics.

With that in mind, it's certainly worth asking how New England was able to get a career year out of Blount. Everybody knows he's a beast in short yardage, but what else does he do well? We went into the situational statistics to see if there are any clues as to how Pederson and the Eagles can get the bruising runner more involved moving forward.

Blount carried the ball most often on 1st down

Blount on 1st down: 188 ATT, 720 YDS, 3.8 AVG
Blount on 2nd, 3rd and 4th downs: 111 ATT, 441 YDS, 4.0 AVG

It seems simple enough. If Pederson is worried about the frequency with which the Eagles are winding up in 2nd- or 3rd-and-long, why not hand Blount the ball a few times on 1st-and-10?

From a strategic standpoint, it makes sense. Even if Blount gains only two or three yards, apparently that's no less effective than whatever the Eagles were doing. At the very least, handing off is less likely to result in a negative play, and the clock keeps moving. Plus, committing to Blount on 1st-and-10 might serve to open up the passing game on that situation as well, especially once defenses are forced to worry about being bludgeoned with repeated 2nd-and-manageables.

If the Eagles are going to get anything out of Blount, besides in short-yardage situations, it's clear he needs to be on the field on 1st-and-10 from time to time.

Majority of Blount's carries came when Patriots were ahead

Blount when ahead: 218 ATT, 832 YDS, 3.8 AVG
Blount when behind or tied: 81 ATT, 329 YDS, 4.1 AVG

This stat can be deceptive, because the Patriots are such an incredible team. Did Blount get more carries when New England was in the lead because that's the optimal times to use him, or because New England is typically in the lead?

Let's just assume the answer is "yes" for both. Regardless, it's obvious the best time to use Blount is while ahead. Teams that are tied or losing are trying to stay aggressive and score as many points as possible, which is accomplished largely through the passing game -- an area where Blount is of minimal use. Teams that are leading can afford to run the ball with minimal effectiveness, as the primary concerns become keeping the clock running and winning the field-position battle.

Seeing as the Eagles offense never took the field with the lead in Kansas City on Sunday, you can forgive Pederson somewhat for lessening Blount's role. That doesn't necessarily mean he should go without a carry, but the circumstances were not optimal for a larger role in the game plan.

Blount's most effective runs were outside the tackles

Blount on runs charted as left side, right side, or middle: 257 ATT, 842 YDS, 3.3 AVG
Blount on runs charted as left sideline or right sideline: 41 ATT, 319 YDS, 7.8 AVG

Perhaps nobody is totally to blame for Blount's lack of effectiveness -- not Blount himself, not Pederson, not the offensive line. The reality is, even last season, he was a plodding runner who occasionally broke free from the defense for a big play.

Clearly, the Patriots didn't continue thumping Blount up the gut down after down because he was ripping off huge chunks of yards. They did it on 1st down because it put the offense in more favorable situations on 2nd, and they did it with the lead because it kept the clock running and shortened the game.

The Eagles and fans alike need to submit to the fact that Blount isn't going to be the type of dynamic back who carries the team to victory. He's the guy who does the dirty work, and when everything goes according to plan, maybe he carries the team across the finish line.

If defenses don't get Blount down quickly, he has the ability make them pay. More often than not, he's going to be the living embodiment of "three yards and a cloud of dust."

By December, Blount's numbers were in serious decline

Blount in September, October and November: 212 ATT, 869 YDS, 4.1 AVG
Blount in December, January, and February: 122 ATT, 401 YDS, 3.3 AVG
(includes playoffs)

Numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these certainly suggest Blount was cooked by the end of last season with the Patriots. He turned 30 years old in December, and exceeded his career high in carries by nearly 100 (98, to be exact), so that's not exactly without precedent. Seeing as Blount was then excommunicated by the Patriots, and didn't attract much attention on the free-agent market until the Eagles gave him a one-year contract worth $1.25 million, the rest of the league seems to share those concerns.

Skeptics have maintained all along Blount wasn't going to work out for the Eagles -- his age, lack of scheme fit and underwhelming career being the primary factors. Perhaps Pederson can now confirm what some observers thought from the beginning.

At this point, it's probably crazy to think Blount deserves or will get upwards of 15 carries per game with any consistency. That doesn't mean he's completely useless and should only play six snaps, either. Then again, the Eagles aren't going to play in front of teams all season long like the Patriots, and Pederson isn't the type of coach who's going to settle for 3.5 yards per carry when he has Carson Wentz to sling the ball all over the field.

Whether Blount is cooked or not -- not an unlikely prospect -- the splits don't indicate a huge swing in production is coming regardless. He is what he is, and the Eagles are either going to recognize that and plug him appropriately, or phase Blount out and maybe even grant him his release.

Challenging week ahead, but time for Sixers to feast after

USA Today Images

Challenging week ahead, but time for Sixers to feast after

The Sixers yawned their way to a 116-105 win over the Orlando Magic at home last night. Orlando put a half-scare into the Sixers by leaping out to a 15-6 lead over a sluggish-looking home team, but the Ballers quickly regained momentum — credit Brett Brown for having the instinct to put Richaun Holmes in off the bench for an energy boost, and credit Holmes for actually providing it — and then the Sixers cruised from there, with Joel Embiid putting up 28 points and 14 boards (on 10-17 FG) in 27 minutes, Robert Covington hitting four threes for the first time in a month and the bench doing just enough to keep the starters from having to re-enter in the fourth. 

It should have been an easy win against the Magic, and essentially, it was. The Sixers moved to 32-25 on the year, comfortably leading the reeling eight-place Heat by 2.5 games and ninth-place Pistons by 4.5 games in the East standings as of Sunday morning, winners of seven in a row and still undefeated at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. Brown's crew has mostly made it look easy the last few weeks — but now it's about to get hard again. Briefly. 

Tonight, the Sixers kick off a three-game road trip in Washington, playing a Wizards team that was supposed to be an easy target for the Sixers to pass in the playoff race once star point guard John Wall was ruled out for six weeks with a knee injury. But backup point guard Tomas Satoransky has flourished in Wall's place, shooting guard Bradley Beal has emerged as fully weaponized and the Wizards have gone an improbable 8-3 in Wall's absence, still leading the Sixers by one game in the standings. 

The Sixers' other two games this trip are also against playoff competition — the 31-29 Heat and the 35-23 third-place Cavaliers — meaning postseason implications are aplenty over the next week. It could end with the red-hot Sixers finally being doused with cold water, or it could close with the Sixers making a serious push for home-court advantage in the first round. 

Either way, the trip stands as the last really challenging part of the Sixers' schedule. After this, the Sixers have 22 games remaining, only seven of which come against teams currently ticketed for the postseason — none against the top two squads in either conference and only two of which come back to back, when the Sixers host the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets in consecutive home games towards the end of March. Beside that, it's a whole lot of Hornets, Nets and Hawks for the Sixers, who've earned their chance to fatten up on the lottery-bound after a brutal schedule for the first 2/3 of the season.

It's worth taking a moment at this point to step back and appreciate the big picture here. Two seasons ago, the Sixers entered March still just hoping they would be able to win two more games all season to avoid historic infamy and ended up only barely able to do so. Now, they're not just in the playoff picture, they're a serious threat to enter the postseason as a first-round favorite while their three most productive players are all in their first or second year and their No. 1 overall pick from last season hasn't played since October. Remarkable stuff, and you only hope that all concerned can make it to the finish line with all limbs and appendages still functioning properly. 

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

Mayors of Philly/Brockton

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

Mayor Jim Kenney doesn't seem to fully understand the concept of a sports wager.

The general rule I like to follow: if you win a bet, you GET SOMETHING OF VALUE in return.

Now, the Mayor of Philadelphia won a bet with the city of Brockton, Massachusetts, and he has to SEND THEM STUFF.

Makes no sense.

Anyway, I guess the city of Brockton now has to dress their Rocky Marciano statue up in Eagles gear. Lulz. So Mr. Kenney is shipping them some goods. I hope the people of New England had to pay for it.

As Eagles fans know all too well, the official Eagles gear is not cheap.