It’s not a newsflash to anybody that is a fan of the NFL, but the New Orleans Saints offense is full of talented weapons who can be game changers and game breakers at any particular time. They boast possibly the best tight end in the league right now in Jimmy Graham and very solid wide receivers in Marques Colston and Lance Moore. If that were not enough, a player like Kenny Stills is an emerging deep threat who is now part of this high octane offense that is quarterbacked by one of the best in the league in Drew Brees.
Yet none of the players named provide the matchup headaches nor is quite the unique threat that Darren Sproles happens to be, and it is him the San Francisco 49ers defense will have to key on the most as his Swiss army knife tool kit of skills poses the most trouble for the Week 11 game. Still wondering the impact and the importance that Sproles has on this Saints offense?
Look back to the Saints’ Week 9 game against the New York Jets which they lost 26-20. When Sproles left the game late in the first quarter, the Saints’ offense was playing well and moving the ball down the field well against the Jets defense. Once Sproles had to abandon the game with a suspected concussion/head injury the Saints had some struggles as the Jets were able to focus more on taking away Graham as a threat in the passing game. In addition on a fourth-and-one play that the Saints had in the fourth quarter, Sproles’ absence was noticeable as the Saints attempted to run a failed reverse with a third string tight end.
The 49ers’ defense will have their hands full as their linebackers will have to be focused and make sure that they wrap up and tackle Sproles when they get their chance on the ground while Donte Whitner and or Eric Reid will likely find themselves at times having to cover Sproles when he lines up in the slot. While they or whoever else might be tasked to cover Sproles may not prevent him for catching the pass, the defense as a unit and as individual players must be prepared to immediately wrap up the diminutive Sproles and prevent him from picking up big yardage after the catch.
While there are players on the Saints offense who have more receptions, carries, receiving yards, or rushing yards, none of them offer what Darren Sproles offers in terms of being a matchup headache for opposing defenses. On Sunday, the 49ers defense will be the latest to see itself having to try and slow down Sproles. If Patrick Willis and Co. are able to minimize the impact Sproles has on the game they have a better chance of pulling off an important win on the road.