We’re about a week removed from the start of the NFL free agency period and the Eagles have had their fair share of ups and downs. GM, Howie Roseman, was able to acquire a number of defensive pieces – most notable of these acquisitions being Pro Bowl defensive end, Michael Bennett. But Howie also had to let several Eagles walk and join different teams due to the tight cap he was working with. These players include; Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Patrick Robinson, Torrey Smith, Brent Celek and most recently, LeGarrette Blount.
Of all these players, the one that hurt me the most was losing running back LeGarrette Blount. He didn’t have the greatest start to the 2017 campaign, but once “the Train” got rolling he was hard to stop. His performance against the LA Chargers (136 yards on 16 carries) set the tone for the Eagles’ running game this past season. Even when Blount’s touches diminished once Ajayi arrived, he didn’t complain one bit. That type of leadership and selflessness is the trademark of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, and Blount was a huge part of that. He didn’t necessarily have the reputation of being a locker room leader coming into Philly. Blount’s had his troubles throughout his career; from the punch he threw on a Boise State player while he was at Oregon, to essentially getting kicked off the Pittsburgh Steelers after his marijuana incident with Le’veon Bell. He’s turned his career around here in Philly and more importantly he’s become a better man. I’ll never forget what he did for this team and how he helped Philadelphia bring home the Lombardi for the first time.
With all that being said, does losing Blount really make the Eagles’ backfield that much worse though? In my opinion; no, not really, and it really didn’t make any sense for Howie to bring him back. They are losing a profound leader, and that can be harder to replace than talent sometimes. But as far as production goes, the Eagles shouldn’t miss a step.
Yes, Blount did lead the team in rushing with 766 yards, but once Ajayi came to town it was clear he was the superior back. Ajayi is a quicker, more nimble, younger version of Blount. They took carries away from each other towards the end of the season which ultimately lead to them not having the greatest statistical seasons. Both Blount and Ajayi only averaged about 10 carries per game in 2017. With Blount now out of the rotation, Ajayi should average about 5-7 more carries this upcoming season. I think a heavier work load will only benefit Ajayi. Like Blount, he’s a volume runner which means he needs to get about 15-20 carries per game to be effective. Let’s not forget about Corey Clement either, who should also see a spike in touches this upcoming season. Clement may be the best all-around back that the Eagles have. With Sproles being sidelined for nearly the entire season with injury, the undrafted rookie was able to step in and fill the receiving back role in Douggie P’s offense. He doesn’t have the playmaking ability that Sproles has yet, but he has a nose for the end zone and he finds pay dirt in a multitude of ways. Speaking of Sproles, he is set to come back and play in 2018. Sproles has always been a workaholic in the weight room. If anyone can come back from a torn ACL and broken arm, it’s Darren Sproles. Even though he’s 34 years old, I think Sproles believes he still has a year or two left in the tank. Even if he came back to exclusively punt/kick return, I would be content with that.
All in all, I really wish we could’ve kept Blount around, but realistically there was no chance. Howie needed to do what he had to do to ensure his team got under the cap and letting Blount walk was an obvious choice.