Free agency is 3 days old and the Eagles have made 2 moves each day. First it was Malcolm Jenkins and Donnie Jones. Then it was Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos. Today the team added help for the offense and defense. The Eagles traded a 5th round pick for Darren Sproles and then they signed CB Nolan Carroll.
There is a ton of enthusiasm for the Sproles move.
Chip Kelly's O relies on athletes in space, and as I wrote for Grantland, Darren Sproles is a classic "Space Player": http://t.co/03EXPsdhFd
— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) March 13, 2014
That offense is going to be scary good —>>RT @JasonLaCanfora Eagles have acquired Sproles from the Saints
— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) March 13, 2014
And boom goes the dynamite. RT @JasonLaCanfora: Eagles have acquired Sproles from the Saints
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) March 13, 2014
Two NFL backs have caught 150 passes & averaged at least 4.8 yards per carry since 2011: Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobCSN) March 13, 2014
When asked about Sproles earlier in the week, I said I didn’t see him as a fit for the Eagles. I was caught off guard by this move. The Eagles get a talented player, but one who is 31 and in the final year of his contract. He’s also a declining player.
I do think I missed an angle to this. I got caught up in labels and thought of Sproles as a RB. I’m now wondering if Sproles isn’t coming to town to be a receiver. He would line up in the backfield at times, but would see most of his snaps in the slot or outside. That would create matchup issues for the defense. Do they account for him as a RB or receiver?
There is no question that Sproles is still a very good pass catcher. He knows how to get open and he’s dangerous after the catch. Even on plays when he is stopped, he can affect the defense. Teams don’t like to leave him in space 1-on-1 with a LB so that causes them to adjust how they cover.
If you think of Sproles as coming in to eat up some of Jason Avant’s snaps, the move makes more sense. He will take some touches away from Shady, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, but I don’t think he’ll line up at RB all that much.
Chip Kelly does love versatile players and he just got one of the most versatile weapons in the league. As far as Sproles being the RS…I’m not sure what to say. He didn’t post big numbers last year. Maybe he’ll do better there with less touches on offense. I would love for Sproles to take on a Brian Mitchell role. He could be the primary RS and a weapon to mix in to the offense in certain looks.
I love the Carroll signing. Honestly, I didn’t think he’d be willing to come to a team with returning starters at CB. The Eagles needed depth at CB in a big way. I still think they’ll draft someone, but Carroll comes in to provide immediate help. Beyond depth, he’ll challenge Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher for a starting gig. You want 3 or 4 guys battling for 2 jobs unless you have star players already in place.
Carroll can also help on STs. He’s not afraid to do the dirty work.
The secondary is better now because it is deeper and more versatile. Malcolm Jenkins can play FS, SS, CB or NB. Carroll can start or come off the bench. Chris Maragos might prove to be a better DB than Colt Anderson, which is one of the reasons I think the Eagles made a change there.
There is still a need for help at both S and CB. The Eagles will likely draft a CB. They could address S with another free agent or in the draft. Or maybe both ways.
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Some of you have asked about improving the defense without adding substantial talent. I’m not ignoring your questions. I’ll cover that angle in a separate post.