KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount put on his sunglasses as he rose from his locker stall seat and faced the large media gathering, properly prepared for the bright lights he knew would be shining on him.
One question after another came about his lack of involvement in a 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs — his lone carry on the day was negated by a penalty — but Blount did not let whatever frustration he felt show through.
“That’s just how the game went,” Blount said. “The game wasn’t going the way we wanted it to so we had to make some changes … It’s more the flow of the game. You’ve just got to ride the wave, and whenever your number is called, it’s called.”
Even if the style of play was a factor, the decision to feature Blount less, and others more, appeared to be by design. He did not get the start — Wendell Smallwood did — and was on the field for one snap on the opening series. Despite the fact that the game was close until late in the fourth quarter, coach Doug Pederson opted to lean mostly on Darren Sproles (10 carries, 48 yards) in the too few moments when he dialed up a run play.
LeGarrette Blount wasn’t a part of the Eagles’ game plan on Sunday against the Chiefs. Peter Aiken/Getty Images
The reality is Blount had a sluggish summer and didn’t show much burst in the opener at the Washington Redskins (14 carries, 46 yards). Pederson decided to give Smallwood and Sproles the bulk of the opportunities this time around.
While that’s his prerogative, the Eagles aren’t in a position where they can simply move away from Blount. They signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million deal in May with the thought that he could be the lead guy in a running-back-by-committee approach. They weren’t necessarily expecting a repeat of 2016, when he set career highs in carries (299), yards (1,161) and touchdowns (his 18 scored led the league), but the hope was he would help provide some much-needed balance to an Eagles attack that asked quarterback Carson Wentz to drop back a franchise-high 607 times as a rookie.
The early returns have not been good, but where can they turn if they turn away from Blount? Sproles is 34 and cannot be used as a workhorse at this stage of his career, Smallwood has not shown himself to be a reliable option to this point and undrafted rookie Corey Clement is no sure bet. Start cutting Blount out, and you run the risk of alienating a veteran presence in the room without a sound Plan B.
The Eagles are in this bind largely because of the front office’s inability to hit on running backs in recent years. The disastrous decision to trade away LeSean McCoy falls on former coach Chip Kelly, as well as owner Jeffrey Lurie for allowing him to do it, but executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has had a couple of offseasons to try and build the position back up.
The team’s draft record with running backs since Roseman first became general manager has contributed to the issue:
Eagles drafted running backs since 2010
2017 — Donnel Pumphrey, fourth round
2016 — Wendell Smallwood, fifth round
2012 — Bryce Brown, seventh round
2011 — Dion Lewis, 5th round; Stanley Havili, seventh round
2010 — Charles Scott, sixth round
What you need to know in the NFL
• 2017 schedule, results
This year’s pick, Pumphrey, was in jeopardy of being cut out of training camp and is on injured reserve after tearing a hamstring in practice. Meanwhile, rookie backs are running wild across the league.
Despite Pederson’s pass-happy approach through two games — the Eagles have thrown it 85 times compared to 41 rushes — he seems to be aware that the ratio can’t remain out of whack.
“That is not a balance for success,” he said of Sunday’s disparity. “By no means do you want to do that at all.”
The Eagles turn their attention to Sunday’s home opener against the New York Giants determined to fix the ground game. They have little choice but to try and make Blount a part of the solution.