Fantasy football: Start LeGarrette Blount, as he emerges as Eagles’ featured back

Many were skeptical about LeGarrette Blount in fantasy football leagues, as his incredible NFL-leading 18 touchdowns and 1,000-yard season in New England last year was clearly not replicable.

For one, many expected the Eagles would be a pass-first team. And second, there was too much competition at running back for Blount to get a servicable work load to be a RB1 in most fantasy leagues.

But a perfect storm, fueled by a 136-yard outburst against the Chargers last week, has that assumption in question. As does a combined 81 rushes for over 400 yards over the last two games. 

The demographics of the team — mostly injury-related — have Blount slated to be the main workhorse going forward.

He seems to, just like the game, he seems to get better as the game goes along,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s all about how he recovers, how he takes care of himself during the week, and how he prepares, even his own conditioning, aside from what we do at practice, that will help him, the later we get into the season.”

Recovering is a key word for the Eagles, who have seen their defense turn into an infirmary ward in recent weeks, missing as many as five starters. As the defense slowly gets back to health, the running game aches for the loss of Darren Sproles for the season and a potential injury to Wendell Smallwood, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a knee injury.

Blount played on 33 percent of Eagles’ snaps last week (on an offense among the leagues best in time of possession and total plays) — up from 28 percent a week ago and eight percent, with zero carries, in a Week 2 loss. Smallwood, who may or may not miss time, or be at 100 percent, got 57 percent of snaps two weeks ago and 44 last week. The trend is in Blount’s favor.

“[He has] great vision to see the hole, to see second-level defenders who move in front of him,” Pederson said, when asked what he’s seen from Blount in his last two games. “And then the balance when he does get hit or hit on his legs to stay moving and stay — you see the balance with the arm on the ground and then him being able to pop up or the balance with maybe just picking his feet up in the hole are the things that I’ve seen that have really been impressive for a big guy.”

Other running back options for the Eagles should Smallwood be hurt include undrafted free agent Corey Clement and on-and-off Eagles’ veteran Kenjon Barner. Clearly, Blount and Smallwood are top running backs — with Blount potentially a featured back in Week 5 against the Cardinals.

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