Sproling for Philadelphia
In what was a seemingly dull free agency period for the Eagles, they pulled off what will be a top-notch, low-risk acquisition in Darren Sproles.
Sproles will provide that versatile X factor that the Eagles failed to find in the likes of Demaris Johnson, Russell Sheppard, and Brad Smith (though I don’t mind Smith). He’ll play in the backfield, spread out wide, and contribute in the return game as well. It’s just a truly perfect fit.
So let’s dig into some of the numbers in order to figure out exactly how Sproles was used and the type of production to expect from him.
To the surprise of no onef, Sproles has been used significantly more as a receiver than an actual running back. How unbalanced was it? Just check out his numbers from his three years in New Orleans.
What you’ll notice here is that Sproles had more receptions than rushing attempts! Wow!
However, the Lightning Bug was successful in the limited number of rushing attempts he did receive and his production is in line with the decline of the Saints’ running game as a unit. Their league rankings were 6th, 25th, and 25th in the league, but still Sproles averaged more than four yards per carry even at their worst.
Those marks were also the best on the Saints. Mark Ingram, who is considered more of a traditional running back, averaged 3.9, 3.9, and 4.9 yards per carry. Pierre Thomas, who supplanted Sproles, averaged 5.1, 3.5 and 3.7 yards per carry.
So, while he won’t be asked to run much, I imagine Sproles will still be productive when called upon. Especially now that he’s with the best rushing team in the league. Don’t undervalue him here.
In the passing game, the numbers speak for themselves. Sproles averaged 75 receptions, 660 yards, and 8.6 yards per reception in the bayou. Then you dig deeper and…again, wow. Sproles is going to be a ton of fun to watch. Here’s Sproles numbers from New Orleans regarding yards after the catch:
Yes, Sproles is a nightmare after the catch. In fact, you’ll notice that I highlighted his numbers from 2012 in which he had more YAC than actual receiving yards. That’s just silly. So when you get that type of production from a small, shifty player and add it behind a big, mobile offensive line I expect to see a lot more screens next year.
Naturally, as a guy who performs well in space he’s a steady option in the return game as well. Dating back to 2005 when Sproles entered the league with San Diego, he’s returned 328 kicks and averaged 25.3 yards per return over that time. As a punt returner, he averaged 8.2 yards over 122 attempts.
Given the current presence of Brad Smith and the looming draft class, Sproles may not be called upon to regularly return kicks but is definitely a spot option to provide a special teams spark.
So, now that Sproles is officially an Eagle, what should be expected of him?
For a simple answer, more or less the same as he was used in New Orleans. Sproles will primarily be a receiving option out of the backfield. Over 90% of the pass plays in which Sproles was involved in New Orleans he was used as a receiving option rather than a blocker. Given his size, it would be odd for Chip Kelly to change that trend.
Expect Sproles to be split out wide in pods for bubble screens, doubled with Shady in the backfield, and stealing our hearts.