Eagles Wake-Up Call: Darren Sproles’ Role

Darren Sproles. (Jeff Fusco)

Darren Sproles. (Jeff Fusco)

Even before Darren Sproles vented his frustrations about his lack of playing time, Chip Kelly was asked this week about the number of snaps the running back receives. Sproles hasn’t been a large part of the Eagles offense this season, and his production has reflected that.

For the first time since 2010, Sproles only has one offensive touchdown; in each of the past four seasons, he’s had at least four. Sproles’ snap count continued to be scant in the Eagles’ loss on Sunday as he was on the field for just 17 offensive plays, or 18 percent.

“We were in a lot more 12 personnel early; he’s playing slot receiver with Jordan [Matthews],” Kelly said. “But really that first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter, we were in a lot more 12 personnel, so we really didn’t have a slot receiver on the field.

“So that’s where he was rotating in 11 personnel, and then we were rotating DeMarco [Murray] and Ryan [Mathews] at the running back spot. Then we switched him from receiver back to running back when Ryan got hurt.”

The Eagles did rely on two tight end sets a lot against Miami, but they also ran more than 40 plays using at least three receivers without Sproles on the field. Riley Cooper’s snap count tripled Sproles’ on Sunday, while Miles Austin’s more than doubled it.

However, that’s not merely a one-game occurrence. Both Austin (52 percent) and Cooper (46.2 percent) have played significantly more snaps this season than Sproles (31.2 percent), who sits behind five Eagles receivers. Although Sproles’ yards per carry and reception averages have decreased this year, it’s partially because he often faces double-teams, while the outside receivers do not.

“Well, a lot of times when he goes in there, he gets two people covering him,” Kelly said. “So they’re not mismatches; it’s an advantage for the defense, so we have to go away from him. You know what I mean?”

According to Sproles’ teammates, however, two people covering the running back does present a mismatch. The middle of the field appeared to open up twice on Sunday because of the extra attention Sproles received, and those were on simple flat routes out of the backfield.

“When Sproles is on the field, there’s a lot more defenses have to be aware of. They definitely play him differently because of the aspects to his game that other guys don’t have.” Kenjon Barner said. “Any time a team doubles a guy, it opens it up more for other people. Any time there’s more focus on one individual, that takes the focus from everybody else.”

Although Sproles lines up primarily as a running back, he has also lined up in the slot. Throughout his career, he has been more dangerous through the air than on the ground, as he’s totaled more receiving yards than rushing yards in each of his previous seven seasons.

“Sproles is going to perform no matter where you put him,” Barner said. “It can be in the backfield, out wide or in the slot. It really doesn’t matter where you put him; he’ll perform.”


All-22: Breaking down the twists and turns in the Eagles’ passing game.

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Sam Bradford remained sidelined during Thursday’s practice, but Peters was another story.

Examining some key Eagles statistics, including playoff odds and an emphasis on points per drive.

In the latest Press Coverage, Tim and I discuss the merits of a Mark Sanchez-led offense.

“It’s just been different with different people in there.” T-Mac on Chip Kelly and detrimental change.


Eric Rowe is in line for an active end to the season, writes Reuben Frank, and the rookie is ready to embrace the role.

Rowe said he didn’t know [Billy] Davis was planning on using him more the last seven games of the season, but he embraces the opportunity.

“I’m ready if they ask me to take on more of a load,” he said. “I’m ready. I’m always prepared. Always study the gameplan just in case.”

The Eagles and Bucs, both 4-5, meet at the Linc at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Eagles’ secondary has been fairly solid this year, but there would certainly be opportunities for Rowe — who played both safety and corner at Utah — if Davis feels like he’s ready.

David Murphy says without Jordan Hicks, the Eagles are leaning more than ever on DeMeco Ryans.

He played just 26 snaps in the season opener in Atlanta, struggling in pass coverage in the Eagles’ frustrating, 26-24 loss. He has battled a variety of core injuries that Ryans yesterday acknowledged could have something to do with the way a body’s biomechanics compensate when the person inside of pushes it past his limits. But he is here, and with the Eagles sitting at 4-5 and Hicks (pectoral injury) gone for the season and [Kiko] Alonso playing through a left knee sprain, his team needs him now more than ever.

“If it bothers him,” [Brandon] Graham said of the injury, “he doesn’t let it show.”

Chances are, he knows that he can’t. Because any hope of salvaging the season requires No. 59 to play a central role.


We’ll preview Sunday’s game as we talk to a Buccaneers beat reporter and break down the injury report when it comes out.