Eagles Wake-Up Call: Sproles And the Age Factor

NFL: NFC Wildcard Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles

On the surface, the why associated with last month’s trade for Darren Sproles is easily answered.

Chip Kelly loves players who are capable of performing a variety of tasks. As we showed with the All-22, Sproles fits the bill. He can carry the ball, he can catch the ball, and he can serve as a return man. He can line up in the backfield, in the slot and even out wide.

While it’s clear he’s capable of doing different things, the question is: Can he still do those things at a high level?

Sproles turns 31 in June. At the owners meetings, Kelly said the Eagles took that into consideration, but ultimately decided Sproles was worth a fifth-round pick.

“I think age is a factor when you look at guys, but I think it’s more of a guideline in kind of what they do,” Kelly said. “The biggest thing for us is the production when you turn the tape on. But I don’t think you can blindly say that this guy’s this age so he’s done. When you look at how they perform, I think Jason Peters is a prime example of that. We watched how he performed this year. And I thought it was really important that we bring Jason back.

“There are some guys when they get to 31, the wheels just fall off, and there are other people who can continue to go. Some guys play later into their career. It’s certainly something you look at. You look at a 21-year-old different than you look at a 31-year-old. But we’re also looking to play next year and the next year. Is Darren gonna be there in 2020? I don’t know about that. But I think for what we needed at this point in time, I think that addition and really what the cost was… really the value for me… if Darren Sproles was available in the fifth round of this draft, would you take him? Heck yeah. So that’s kind of how I looked at that.”

If 25-year-old Sproles was available in the fifth-round, he’d obviously be a steal. But 31-year-old Sproles might yield a different answer from teams around the league.

Said ESPN analyst Louis Riddick: “There are some down there in New Orleans who thought Darren’s best days were long behind him and the wall was approaching faster than outsiders think. They made a calculated bet, and we’ll see which team is right there. You just know the Saints know more about him than anybody else knows about him.”

Sproles is not going to be an every-down player for the Eagles. And while the Kelly and Howie Roseman wouldn’t go into detail, it’s clear they believe strongly that their sports science program might be able to help veterans. Guys like Trent Cole (31) and Brent Celek (29) said last year they felt better than ever before.

Roseman also noted that Sproles’ style alleviated some of the Eagles’ concerns about his age.

“We do feel like because of the way he’s gotten his touches, more in space than around the line of scrimmage, so hit more by linebackers and defensive backs than by big 300-pound linemen, that certainly helps him,” Roseman said. “And then hopefully just implementing him in our program and the things that we’re doing will also help.”

Sproles has been durable throughout his career, having missed only four games in the past six seasons. But looking just at statistics, there are signs that he is slowing down a bit. He averaged 4.2 YPC in 2013 and had just one run of 20+ yards in 53 attempts. And he averaged just 6.7 yards per punt return (20th).

As we’ve written previously, Sproles’ greatest value comes as a receiver. And the Eagles saw enough on film to be convinced that he can make an impact.

“We just felt like the value to our team in Darren was worth the price,” Roseman said. “And we understood that if we didn’t do it, maybe there were other options for him. There were other teams interested. And so at that point it was just: Do we want the player or not? We wanted the player and we felt it was something that we needed to do at the time.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Is there undue pressure on Kelly? T-Mac answers in his weekly mailbag.

Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is reportedly taking an official visit to Philadelphia.

Separating myth from reality and closing the book on DeSean Jackson with 10 final points.

Brian Dawkins offers his take on Jackson.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Bob Ford of the Inquirer weighs in on Jackson:

We still don’t know exactly why the Eagles released DeSean Jackson last week, and we might never know. The convenient timing of the story that alleged a growing organizational concern about Jackson’s gang ties – a concern that doesn’t seem to be shared by the police – and the lockdown silence from the NovaCare bunker since his release, make for easy two-plus-two math: Boy, there must be a whole lot more going on and they just can’t talk about it.

Well, there better be a lot more going on, otherwise the perception the Eagles have allowed to take root concerning Jackson is a poor reflection on the character of the organization. For that answer, we have to wait.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz writes about what Kelly might be looking for in a wide receiver:

I think one of the key traits Kelly will focus on is RAC ability. You need players who can catch short passes and then make something happen. This is where quickness and elusiveness can be just as important as speed. A fast receiver can run by players. Someone who is quick and elusive can catch the ball in traffic and then make guys miss. That’s critical with the amount of quick screens the Eagles throw to WRs. You need players who can turn nothing into something.

COMING UP

Seems like a good time to start digging deep into draft conversation.

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