One of the concerns with the trade for Darren Sproles was the fact that he was in the final year of his deal. That seemed pretty odd. Clearly the Eagles had already planned on dealing with that and today they announced a 2-year contract extension with him. Suddenly the trade makes a lot more sense.
Some people wondered why Chip Kelly would acquire a player like Sproles. He’s older and declining. Why go for a player like that? The extension tells you that this isn’t a case of Kelly taking a flier on Sproles. Kelly has a specific plan for how to use him. To me, that’s great news. We don’t know what the plan is or if it will work, but I’m willing to have faith in Kelly. His offensive plans usually turn out pretty well.
I do think Sproles can thrive in Kelly’s system. The Eagles spread the field a lot. That stretches the defense and creates some interesting matchups. Get Sproles the ball in space and let him make plays for you. He won’t be a standard RB for the Eagles. He will play some in the backfield, but Kelly will move him around quite a bit.
I hope Sproles will benefit from fewer touches. The Eagles have a lot of playmakers as it is. Sproles had 124 offensive touches in 2013. That would have been second on the Eagles. I don’t think he’ll have that kind of a role. Limiting his touches on offense could also help him as a RS. That is one area where he could be an impact player for the Eagles if he’s able to get back to previous form. There is no question that 2013 was a down year for him as a returner.
You also wonder if the sports science stuff can help Sproles at all. He’s still very athletic and in good condition. If Kelly’s ideas can make him just a bit better, that could make a real difference.
The other consideration here is that Sproles is an insurance policy for the Eagles. The team is deep at RB, but if Shady were to go down, Brown and Polk would offer little impact as receivers. Obviously that is an area where Sproles is still among the best in the league. Shady stayed healthy last year, but you can’t count on a workhorse RB doing that every season.
Some of you have asked about Sproles as a blocker when he’s out in space. Great question. Jason Avant did a terrific job when blocking on WR screens and running plays. Sproles is a good pass protector, but I honestly don’t know about the other blocks. I’ll need to go watch a few Saints games. This may be a project that gets put off until after the draft. While highly interesting, it isn’t a timely issue.
Chip Kelly loves versatile players that can make plays. That is Darren Sproles in a nutshell. I didn’t anticipate this move, but it does make sense when you focus on him as a RS and slot receiver more than just as a RB.
I also think Kelly has earned our trust after the great performance by the offense last year. One thing we know won’t be an issue is teams seeing the same exact offense. When you add a player as talented and multiple as Sproles, there are going to be some new wrinkles for defenses to worry about.