It’s funny how easily some people forget.
Ever since Darren Sproles was acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, the 5’6” 190 pound running back has done nothing but be a consistent play maker on both offense and special teams. It could be argued that he was even our best and only reliable weapon during Carson Wentz’s rookie year in 2016.
2017 was supposed to be Sproles’ final season in the league, but after suffering both a torn ACL and a broken arm in Week 3 against the New York Giants he decided to return for one more season. However, a portion of the fan base was skeptical, not only over Sproles’ decision to come back but the team’s decision to bring him back despite him turning 35 years old and recovering from a season-ending knee injury. Many wondered if he would have the same type of running ability that he’s always been known for. Other fans wanted the team to re-sign LeGarrette Blount instead of Sproles, and understandably so considering the vital role Blount played in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run.
For almost all the 2018 season the skeptics seemed to be right. Sproles injured his hamstring (and reportedly more) after the opening night game versus the Atlanta Falcons and hadn’t been able to get back onto the field until this past Sunday. Fans were angry. They repeatedly said he should have retired and that he’s been a waste of money and a roster space.
But it’s funny how easily some people forget that Sproles just continues to make plays.
Against the Redskins Sproles saw limited action, playing only 12% of offensive snaps and carried the ball only 4 times. However, he was able to convert one of those carries into a 14-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles the lead for good.
Shot 5 – Lot of great things to look at with Darren Sproles’ first TD in two seasons. #Eagles ran a ‘Sprint Draw’ to the left with the key blocks coming from Jason Kelce, Zach Ertz and Jason Peters. Great effort outside by WRs Agholor and Matthews as well #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/Kca5nrb0WD
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 5, 2018
It’s clear to see that Sproles isn’t as explosive of an athlete as he once was, but he’s still got plenty of burst and elusiveness left in the tank to go along with his good vision and savviness in open space. Plus, he still has phenomenal strength despite his short stature. Being able to get a hand on him is one thing, but attempting to bring him down with arm tackles is another.
It’s crunch time for the Eagles right now. They’ve had little to no wiggle room when it comes to winning these games the past couple of weeks, and that’s not going to change the rest of the way. The good news is that more players are starting to get healthy, and for the first time in weeks both sides of the ball played a complete game. The team has gained a little bit of momentum with these 2 wins, but the improvements simply can’t stop there. They need to continue, and Sproles is going to have to be a big part of that.
The Eagles’ offense has their work cut out for them against this Cowboys defense that is playing at a very high level right now. Their defensive line, led by Demarcus Lawrence, is stellar. Their linebackers, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, are great athletes who fly all over the field. And they have a CB duo of Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie that is capable of manning up and staying with a lot of the better receivers in the league. The Eagles are going to have a long and tough game if they simply expect to play 1v1 across the board and rely on their own talented players to dominate their matchups. It’s not to say that they don’t match up well against them, but the Cowboys defense is just too good to think they won’t be able to make several plays of their own. Plus, the game is in Dallas, so the defense will have the crowd on their side.
If it were up to me, a big part of the game plan for the Eagles’ offense would be to use a lot of misdirection and pre-snap motion to keep the Cowboys’ defense off balance and thinking constantly, and Sproles is one of the few offensive weapons the Eagles have that can really take advantage of those concepts and designs.
Doug Pederson said in his press conference on Tuesday that he plans on increasing more of Sproles’ production going forward. The team needs to remind everyone, from fans to opposing defenses, just the type of weapon he can be still. Sproles might have missed plenty of games in 2018 already, but he’s available now at the most crucial part of the season. He’s come up clutch plenty of times before for the Eagles, and he might have to again in these final games.