Philadelphia Eagles: AJ Dillon could be the next LeGarrette Blount

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

As the Philadelphia Eagles continue to fortify their backfield, AJ Dilon could serve as the second coming of LeGarrette Blount for years to come.

The Philadelphia Eagles are rebuilding their running backs corps right under our collective nose with a crop of young performers.

And believe you me, the Birds have a type.

Okay, technically they have a few types – blueprints really.

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First, there’s Miles Sanders, the Eagles’ unquestioned starter going into 2020. A shifty one cup runner with an ability to do-it-all on the inside, outside, and as a receiver coming out of the backfield, Sanders is the closest thing to a 22-year-old version of LeSean McCoy the team could find in the second round.

Then, we have the NFC’s Week 17 Player of the Week Boston Scott, a thick seatback who can also do a bit of everything but provides the most value as a change of pace back that keeps an opposing defense on their toes. Scott plays a lot like Darren Sproles and even came to South Philly via New Orleans.

Okay, so the Birds have their Gen Z McCoy and their Gen Z Sproles, but what about a replacement for everyone’s favorite power back, LeGarrette Blount?

The team tried Jay Ajayi, Josh Adams, Jordan Howard, Jay Ajayi again, and Elijah Holyfield, but since he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions in 2018, the Eagles have never quite found an adequate replacement who can drop his shoulder and pick up four yards in a cloud of dust any time he touches the ball.

While conventional wisdom would suggest that an Andy Reid-adjacent offense would excel with a back like Sanders, the Eagles have found their greatest success with power coming out of the backfield, and would at least try to reincorporate that element into their offense in some capacity.

Fortunately, we are in the middle of draft season, where dreams are made of.

Now conventional wisdom would suggest that the Eagles shouldn’t invest much draft capital in the running back position when they have a ton of needs across the board. However, sometimes a player just jumps off the tape and solidifies their NFL potential at the combine.

AJ Dillon falls into that category for the Eagles.

Measuring in at 6-foot-tall, 250 pounds, Dillon looks more like his fellow Boston College Eagle Luke Kuechly than Ezekiel Elliott but hits the hole like a tank. He’s rough, violent, and abrasive and is seldom taken down by the first tackler.

In 35 games of college action spread out over three seasons, Dillon ran the ball 845 times for 4,382(!) yards and 38 touchdowns as the lead rusher in the Eagles’ single back power rushing scheme. For those without a calculator, that’s roughly 125 yards a game on 24 carries.

Dillon also showcased an ability to catch the ball as a junior, hauling in 13 passes for yards as a change of pace receiver.

In the modern-day NFL, where teams value versatility, Dillon is a bit of a throwback player, but after showing out at the combine, that stigma may no longer be the case.

In the second night of combine action, Dillon recorded 23 reps on the bench, a 41-inch vertical jump, a 131-inch broad jump, and, most importantly of all, a 4.51 40. Just for context, that number is .01 away from CeeDee Lamb‘s 40, and he weighs 50 pounds less than the Boston College rusher.

Dillon didn’t quite capture the football world like, say, Wisconsin‘s Jonathan Taylor but make no mistake; his stock is on the rise.

For the price of a Day 3 draft pick – probably closer to a four than a seven – Dillon could complete the Eagles’ running back trifecta and officially give the team the chocolate segment of their Neapolitan rushing attack while having the size to develop into an elite pass blocker as Carson Wentz‘s last line of defense.

And the best part? Since rookies sign a four-year deal right out of the gate, we won’t have to worry about Dillon leaving in free agency after one year like basically every power rusher since 2017.

Next. Avoid Tee Higgins in the first round at all costs. dark

After moving on from Mike Groh, the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense should look a little different in 2020. Not too different mind you, as Doug Pederson is very much still calling the plays, but things could get shaken up just a tad to give an otherwise vanilla offense a bit more character. While AJ Dillon isn’t the kind of player you build an offense around, he can provide serious value as a change of pace thumper capable of tiring down a defense as the clock keeps ticking. Didn’t the Eagles win a Super Bowl with that formula?