The Eagles acquired one of the best free agents still available on the market this week by signing veteran running back LeGarrette Blount. Philadelphia desperately needed help in the backfield so Blount, who signed a one-year deal, is expected to fill a big need. For more insight on Blount, here’s a question and answer exchange with New England Patriots writer Rich Hill from Pats Pulpit.
1 - Can you sum up Blount’s entire Patriots career?
Frustratingly boom-bust, but a great team player that did whatever Bill Belichick asked. Blount's a one-dimensional runner that wasn't ever asked to block or catch the ball, so teams loaded the box whenever he was on the field. That limited Blount to a mere 2-yard gain no matter how many yards were needed for a first down, with the 10% chance that Blount would rip off a 10+ yard gain. He would rarely gain anything in-between and the Patriots just reached a point where they wanted more consistency and versatility on a down-to-down basis.
2 - What’s the reaction to Blount signing with the Eagles? Did Patriots fans want him back?
Patriots fans love Blount. He's been a huge part of two Super Bowl titles, his touchdown celebration with the Minutemen became a weekly staple, and he always came through in the fourth quarter when the Patriots needed to kill the clock. The Patriots wanted Blount back, too, but Blount wanted more money. The addition of Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee made Blount expendable and their upside and versatility made them greater priorities for the offense. So while everyone would have been happy to see Blount return, the team found a way to upgrade the position for 2017.
3 - What are his strengths?
Blount is an outstanding outside runner because he can flip his hips and change from moving laterally to vertically in the blink of an eye- an impressive trait for a 250-pound runner. His 4.92 yards per carry over the past three seasons on runs to the outside ranks 10th out of 59 running backs with 100+ outside carries. When Blount runs with good pad level, no single linebacker or defensive back can tackle him in the open field without a handful of yards after contact. Due to Blount's size, he can literally just run into the back of his offensive linemen on the goal line to push the pile and score. Solid ball security and can actually return kicks pretty well.
4 - What are his weaknesses?
Blount is slow to build his speed, so if a defender can cut through the offensive line, they can take Blount down for a loss- or if the defensive line wins the trench battle, then Blount will probably be stopped for a loss. Blount's 3.58 yards per carry over the past three seasons on runs to the inside ranks 45th out of 62 running backs with 100+ inside carries. He's a mediocre pass blocker and he was never used to catch the ball out of the backfield. He needs to be constantly coached about his pad levels because they will rise and he will lose all of his physicality unless he's reminded to run lower. Needs to feel wanted in order to buy into the team mentality.
5 - What’s his ideal role at this point? How much of a workload do you think he should reasonably handle?
Blount can handle 200-300 carries no problem because he's the lowest-mileage 30+ year old running back you'll find in the NFL. He's best as a first down running back and as a fourth quarter clock killer if you want to maintain a lead. Perhaps the Eagles could use him more as a receiver, even if just once or twice a game, to keep defenses honest and prevent them from stacking the box.
6 - Anything to know about his off the field? Good locker room guy?
Everyone loves Blount in New England. The players, especially the running back room, are close with Blount and the coaching staff heaps praise on his professional approach and willingness to play whatever role he is assigned. He attends a lot of Celtics games and always brought his teammates, which endeared him to the greater Boston region, so don't be surprised if he makes his way to some 76ers games. Respect goes a long way for Blount, so as long as he feels wanted, he'll give everything he can for the team.
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