Eagles

LeGarrette Blount starting to make his rounds

LeGarrette Blount starting to make his rounds

It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gone, but LeGarrette Blount is at least exploring his options in free agency. 

The 31-year-old free-agent running back is scheduled to visit with the Lions on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Blount is one of several veteran running backs the Lions have shown interest in. According to Schefter, the Lions already had DeMarco Murray and Jonathan Stewart as visitors. Frank Gore is scheduled for a Thursday visit, before Blount on Friday. 

Earlier on Wednesday night, USA Today’s Mike Jones reported the Lions were close to reaching a deal with Gore, so it’s possible the meeting with Blount never even happens. 

Last offseason, Blount didn’t have a team until the Eagles signed him to a one-year deal worth just over $1 million in May. He ended up playing in all 16 games for the Birds and rushed for 766 yards. More importantly, Blount carried the ball 14 times for 90 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII, helping bring a championship to Philadelphia. 

While Blount began the season as the Eagles’ starter, the midseason trade for Jay Ajayi took away some of his carries. Ajayi will return in 2018 on the final season of his rookie contract and the team will also have second-year player Corey Clement back. After that, the running back position seems up in the air. 

Blount, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner are all free agents, while Wendell Smallwood and Donnell Pumphrey are far from locks to make the 2018 roster. 

When he signed with the Eagles last May, Blount said there were other teams interested in him but he chose his new team strategically. At the time, he said he thought the Eagles were the best fit for him. We’ll find out soon enough if that still holds true for him and the BIrds. 

Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

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USA Today Images

Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

What’s wrong with the Eagles? Doug Pederson on Wednesday boiled it down to two things he believes are holding the Eagles back the most:

1)  A lack of takeaways, and

2)  Poor offense in the red zone.

The difference between the 13-win Super Bowl champs and a third-place team sputtering along at 4-5 is not that great, Pederson believes:

Listen, we’re very close. We’re so close in a lot of areas. You look at our output and our production offensively, we’re very similar to what we were last year. We’re plus 30 passes down the field. Explosive passes, I think we’re second in the National Football League, we’re sixth at 20-plus explosive plays. Third downs, we’re within a percentage point or two of being where we were a season ago. The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That’s kind of what’s staring at us right in the face. And time of possession’s good, all those things we look at. Red-zone defense has been good throughout the season. We’ve got to finish better and we have to score more points.

Let’s take a look at those two key areas.

Takeaways

As Dave Zangaro wrote this week, takeaways are down dramatically.

The Eagles have generated just seven takeaways, fewest in franchise history after nine games and third-fewest in the NFL (ahead of only the 49ers with five and the Buccaneers with six).

The Eagles have gone three straight games without an interception and they have just one in their last five games. They’ve had a franchise-record seven straight games with one or fewer takeaway and they have just four since Week 3.

The Eagles last year finished fourth in the NFL with 31 takeaways, just three fewer than the NFL-leading Ravens.

Red-zone offense

Last year, the Eagles led the NFL with touchdowns on 71 percent of their red-zone drives, and they averaged 5.6 points per red-zone drive.

This year, those numbers have dropped to touchdowns on 54 percent of their red-zone drives (22nd) with an average of 4.8 points per red-zone drive.

Let’s examine some of Pederson’s other figures:

Third down

Although he is correct that the Eagles are close to last year on third down — 41.7 percent last year, 41.2 percent this year — the league average has increased dramatically, from 38.7 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.

So after being 3 percent over the average last year, they’re less than 1 percent over the average this year.

Time of possession

Eagles led the NFL at 32:41 last year and are second at 32:22 this year. Virtually the same.

Big plays

Doug’s numbers are a little off regarding big plays. The Eagles were 11th last year in offensive plays of 20 yards or more (62) and 12th in plays of 30 yards or more (24).

This year, they’re 21st in plays of 20 yards (34) and eighth with 16 plays of 30 or more yards (16).

Other areas

Sacks are up from one every 15.7 pass attempts last year to one every 12.6 passes this year. Rushing average has dropped from 4.5 to 4.1. And first downs per game are actually up – from 21.1 to 22.6.

The conclusion?

The Eagles actually have done a lot of things well. Some things even better than last year.

But in those critical moments when games are won or lost, they are coming up small.

They have the talent to pile up stats all over the place and keep every game close, but they've have put together only one complete game.

And if things don’t change soon? The 2018 Eagles are destined to be forever known as a frustratingly, agonizingly, consistently underachieving football team.

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Don't be surprised if Eagles vs. Saints is close

Don't be surprised if Eagles vs. Saints is close

The Eagles are nine-point underdogs this Sunday in New Orleans. The Eagles are coming off an embarrassing loss on national television. The Saints look unstoppable seemingly rolling out of bed and putting up at least 30 points. Why does all of that point to the Eagles staying within the number and maybe even winning outright?

Every football fan can be prone to being a prisoner to the moment. This gets especially magnified when you get dominated on Sunday or Monday Night Football. That type of loss in front of a national audience can skew one's opinion on the team too far one way or the other. This season, there have been 10 occasions when a team has gotten embarrassed on Sunday or Monday night (embarrassed defined as losing by at least two scores). Yes, the Eagles only lost by one score, but I think the whole region can agree that it was an embarrassment this past Sunday night. Here's how the previous ten teams fared:

Week 1:
Jets 48, Lions 17. Next game: Lions 27, 49ers 30 (Lions cover +6, lose outright)
Rams 33, Raiders 13. Next game: Raiders 19, Broncos 20 (Raiders cover +5.5, lose outright)

Week 3:
Patriots 10, Lions 26. Next game: Dolphins 7, Patriots 38 (Patriots cover -6.5)

Week 4:
Ravens 26, Steelers 14. Next game: Falcons 17, Steelers 41 (Steelers cover -3.5)

Week 5: 
Redskins 19, Saints 43. Next game: Panthers 17, Redskins 23 (Redskins cover +1, win outright)

Week 7:
Bengals 10, Chiefs 45. Next game: Buccaneers 34, Bengals 37 (Bengals fail to cover -3.5 despite leading 34-16 at the start of the 4th quarter)

Week 8:
Saints 30, Vikings 20. Next game: Lions 9, Vikings 24 (Vikings cover -5)
Patriots 25, Bills 6. Next game: Bears 41, Bills 9 (Bills fail to cover +10)

Week 9:
Packers 17, Patriots 31. Next game: Dolphins 12, Packers 31 (Packers cover -12)
Titans 28, Cowboys 14. Next game: Cowboys 27, Eagles 20 (Cowboys cover +7.5, win outright)

Week 10:
Cowboys 27, Eagles 20. Next game: ???

Teams that got blown out on Sunday or Monday night are 8-2 against the spread their next game (including two outright wins by underdogs). Aside from a blown cover from the Bengals, the only team that failed to cover were the Nathan Peterman-led Buffalo Bills.

Teams are never as bad as their worst game (Eagles losing to the Cowboys) or as great as their best game (Saints winning 51-14 in Cincinnati). The elephant in the room of course is New Orleans has a different kind of home field advantage. However, it is so uncommon for an elite quarterback like Carson Wentz to get that many points. Russell Wilson covered +10 and Aaron Rodgers covered +7.5 at the Rams. 

Don't be surprised if the Eagles keep it close on Sunday.

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