Eagles Wake-Up Call: Sproles’ Role In 2015
There has been a lot of turnover in the Eagles backfield the past few months, but one thing has stayed the same: the presence of Darren Sproles.
Sproles was acquired last offseason in a trade with the New Orleans Saints and immediately made an impact. In the season opener against the Jaguars, he took a handoff on 4th-and-1 and raced 49 yards to the end zone. The very next week, Sproles torched the Colts for 152 receiving yards and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
However, fewer opportunities and an injury he sustained against the Giants slowed Sproles’ production down the stretch. There were times after Mark Sanchez took over where the pair had chances for big plays in the passing game, but they were unable to capitalize.
“It’s all timing,” Sproles said. “We’ve got to know what we’re both thinking at the time. That all comes with reps.”
Sproles had 11 carries in Week 1, but averaged just 3.3 rushes per game the rest of the way. Even though the team added DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in the offseason, he believes he will remain an integral part of Chip Kelly’s offensive attack.
During the open practices this spring, Sproles worked more with the receivers during individual drills, something he says will help him see the field more in 2015.
“[The coaches] really want me to learn both positions,” said Sproles. “So they wanted [me] to work on my route running and some things like that.”
Sproles played 29 percent of the snaps a year ago.
Kelly was asked during the owners meetings in March whether he anticipated the Eagles being more creative in how they deployed Sproles this season.
“Yeah, we do,” he said. “And it’s just acclimation. Also for us, and especially early in the year, he was our only other running back so kind of moving him around and putting him in different spots, you’re kind of holding your breath because early, I can’t remember if it was one or two games, our third running back was Trey Burton because Chris [Polk] was injured.
“But obviously in Year Two, a lot more familiarity with what we’re doing, getting acclimated in terms of what we’re doing. We need to get him on the field more.”
Sproles can be a weapon in the screen game, but he told the Inquirer in May that teams changed up their defenses when he was on the field.
“When I was in the game the coverages were totally different than when Shady was in the game,” Sproles said. “To get the play call that we wanted, to get me one-on-one, they wouldn’t let me have that. They were bringing down the safety to stop the inside cut and they were keeping the linebacker outside [to stop screens].”
Even though Kelly made drastic changes at the running back spot, Sproles could see more touches in 2015, even if that means more catches and fewer rushing attempts.
WHAT YOU MISSED
After seven years in the NFL, Allen Barbre is ready to embrace a starting role.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Sam Donnellon of the Daily News writes about Jordan Matthews’ expectations heading into his sophomore campaign:
“I know we’re going to miss Maclin,” Matthews said. “Great player. Great leader. Great mentor to me. But at the same time it is what it is and you have to go with the guys you have and try to make the most of it.” Agholor already has wowed observers this spring with his quickness and hands. He’s also impressed with his approach and attitude, reminiscent of Matthews a year ago. “I wanted to play bad for this team that first year,” Matthews said. “So I did whatever it took to learn it. So I found little idiosyncrasies in the offense. Little cues. Little hooks. And I continued to memorize those things to help me memorize the offense better.”
Corey Seidman of CSN Philly wonders if Barbre can effectively replace Evan Mathis:
Two weeks ago, Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland called Barbre “underrated” and “really good.” Fans won’t have to wait much longer to form opinions of their own, because Barbre will be relied upon heavily as a starting guard for a team that wants to run downhill often. Mathis helped clear running lanes for LeSean McCoy to total nearly 3,000 rushing yards the last two seasons. The Eagles’ running game is expected to be just as productive, if not more so, than it was in 2013 and 2014 with DeMarco Murray seemingly a better fit for Kelly’s system than McCoy was.
We’ll have more wrapping up the spring.
Sheil Kapadia contributed to this post.