Darren Sproles to Be Released; Should Miami Dolphins Pounce on Playmaker?

By Danny Williams
Derek E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The dynamic Darren Sproles is reportedly going to be released by the New Orleans Saints. The 5-foot-6 Sproles has made his mark as one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL.

Sproles accounted for over 600 receiving yards every year in his time with the Saints. His best year came in 2011 when he amassed over 600 rushing yards to go with his 710 receiving yards. Sproles was a part of a Saints offense which was top five in the league in each of his three seasons with the team. The Saints held the No. 1 spot for yards accumulated back in 2011.

Sproles is going to add a versatile weapon to whatever team he signs with. Should the Miami Dolphins bring in this playmaker who has the potential to put six points on the board every time he touches the ball?

The Dolphins are in need of an upgrade at the running back position as Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have both faltered in opportunities to prove they were “the guy” in Miami’s backfield. Both Miller and Thomas have shown that they are merely No. 2 options as they both lack the vision, toughness and pass-blocking ability to excel as a featured back in the Dolphins’ West Coast offense.

With that being said, Sproles has never been a No. 1 back in his time in the NFL. Sproles spent the first five years of his career sitting behind running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner in San Diego and rarely got opportunities. He was viewed as a guy who was too small to play the position, which is probably still true.

Sproles was in San Diego what Wes Welker was in Miami. A playmaker who was underutilized and misused by his coaches. Going to New Orleans, much like going to New England for Welker, made him a league-wide recognized weapon.

Sproles started to make his mark as a playmaker in limited opportunities with the Chargers. Then, when Saints head coach Sean Payton got ahold of him in 2011, Sproles turned into a star. Payton, who is an offensive genius, was able to take advantage of Sproles’ unique skill set by lining him up as a receiver as well as designing screens for Sproles coming out of the backfield.

Defenses always had to know where Sproles was when he was on the field, as the Dolphins found out in Week 4 of the 2013 season when Sproles torched Miami for 117 yards on seven catches with two touchdowns on the night.

But, Sproles, who will be 31 when the season starts, was the beneficiary of an offense that features an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, the best tight end in the NFL in Jimmy Graham and an offensive genius who knows how to use his chess pieces at the helm of the team.

If Sproles came to Miami, he would be more of the same rushing-wise. The Dolphins would gain another receiving option, but would that really be a good thing? New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will already have his hands full getting the five receivers (yes, five) who will be competing for playing time the targets to keep them happy. On top of that, do we really have confidence that Joe Philbin and crew will use Sproles in a manner that will maximize his talents? Reggie Bush, anyone?

In the running game, the shifty Sproles would not provide anything new. Sproles does not have above-average vision as a running back and would struggle in Miami’s zone-blocking scheme. Sproles does not bring the physical presence the Dolphins lacked with such futility last season when every third- or fourth-and-short was stopped for a loss. Sproles is best in the open field, much like Lamar Miller.

Miami needs a running back who has good vision to find the holes and cutback lanes that the zone-blocking scheme thrives off of. Miami needs a running back who can pass block. Miami also needs a running back who can power through arm tackles in the second level of a defense.

Sproles doesn’t bring any of those things.

In reality, Sproles is an upgraded Marcus Thigpen — a pass-catching running back and a kick returner. The Dolphins would benefit from having Sproles on the field, but unless he comes cheap (under $2 million a year cheap) and the Dolphins plan on releasing Thigpen, I don’t see it happening. The Dolphins need that roster spot for a true featured running back, not another flashy toy.

Danny Williams is an NFL writer for RantSports, follow him on Twitter @DannyWeeumzNFL

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