The Eagles’ three-headed monster at running back has been a key to their Super Bowl run.
After losing Carson Wentz with a torn ACL in Week 14, it was evident that the Eagles would need to further rely on their third-ranked running game (132.2 rushing yards per game). With Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood suffering early-season injuries, Philadelphia decided to deploy a three-headed rushing attack that consisted of Jay Ajayi (traded from the Dolphins at the trade deadline), LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement. The trio has collectively provided matchup nightmares for opposing defenses and, combined with their dominant defense, have been the driving force in their impressive Super Bowl run.
With Super Bowl Sunday rapidly approaching, it’s time to examine the Eagles’ three-headed monster at the running back position. What skill set does each one bring to the table? How have they impacted Philadelphia’s offensive success? What should be expected of them on Sunday?
Following a surprising trade that sent him to the Eagles from Miami, Ajayi became part of a committee backfield. There was a lot of skepticism surrounding last year’s Pro Bowler on how Philadelphia would equally incorporate him in their offense. However, Ajayi stepped in and delivered nicely, rushing for 535 yards on 103 carries and two touchdowns (one receiving) in just nine games (including both playoff contests) played.
Ajayi provides a similar powerful style of running to Blount, while also possessing an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Constantly finding running lanes and consistently getting into the open field, Ajayi initially gave offensive coordinator Frank Reich a nice compliment to Blount, but his quality play eventually earned him the starting job.
Look for Ajayi to continue to lead the Eagles’ backfield against the Patriots. His big-play potential will be crucial, as Philadelphia attempts to prevent Tom Brady and company from capturing their sixth Super Bowl title, and third in four years.
Just one season removed from a career year with New England, in which he recorded 299 carries for 1,161 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns, it was believed that Blount would be a workhorse back for the Eagles. However, following the Ajayi trade and some mid-season struggles, Blount’s play was severely limited. Nevertheless, he still finished the season with 173 carries, 766 yards, and three total touchdowns — all respectable stats.
Blount gives Philadelphia a bruising powerhouse, who’s a near lock for a touchdown if they are on the goal line. Basically, he’s a prototype fullback at the running back position. His ability to finish runs, while maintaining ball security (just one fumble all season), is vital for the Eagles’ ground game.
Look for Blount to command the goal line carries in Minnesota on Sunday. With a matchup against the so-called “GOAT,” touchdowns are going to be critical, so expect Philadelphia to heavily rely on Blount in the red zone.
After pass-catching specialist Darren Sproles went down with a torn ACL and broken arm on the same play in Week 3, the Eagles needed another change-of-pace back to replace him. This is where they discovered rookie Corey Clement’s talent; Clement, an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin, displayed his shifty, agile running style and ability to find the end zone en route to 321 rushing yards, 123 receiving yards, and six total touchdowns.
Clement gives Philadelphia yet another productive option at halfback and a young alternative for the future. Look for him to continue to shine in his limited, but valuable, role against New England.
The Eagles’ three-headed backfield has been magnificent all year and will be essential to their offensive attack in Minnesota. If these three players can maintain their dominance, Philadelphia will be in prime position to upset the Patriots and hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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