DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant might not have gotten along well with Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, but Darren Sproles has made quite the impression on the second-year coach.
The new Eagles running back adds much needed playmaking in the passing game. Sproles has been one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the NFL, averaging 77 catches per year in his three seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
When the Eagles made the surprise trade for Sproles, most people overlooked the additional value he would provide with his veteran leadership. For a team with a QB entering his second full season as a starter in Nick Foles as well as inexperienced playmakers, a veteran who can be a mentor to an offense filled with young players was a strong need. Having made the playoffs in five of his eight seasons in the league, Sproles fits the bill.
In just his fourth month with the team, Sproles has impressed the Eagles coaching staff with his football IQ. For a running back to get open for so many receptions year after year, this doesn’t come as a surprise. After cutting Jackson loose, it seemed like Kelly wanted to improve the locker room culture and that it was his way or the highway. Looks like Sproles is fitting in just fine and is the type of “football player” Kelly covets.
At a small stature of 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds to go along with his age, many people think Sproles’ best days are behind him. At 31 years old, Sproles is the oldest player on an offense whose average age of the starting playmakers is under 26. In addition to young players such as LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz, the Eagles drafted two rookie wideouts in Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
Besides McCoy, who is a very established player, and veteran Brent Celek, there is a ton of inexperience on the Eagles offense. Maclin and Cooper are just 26 years old and are taking on more responsibility than they ever have previously in their careers. Ertz is entering his second year in the league and is still learning how to become a more complete tight end. Foles can also learn a lot from Sproles, who has played with some of the league’s best QBs. Sproles has witnessed both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers evolve into Pro Bowl QBs.
Given his experience and great leadership qualities to go along with a very young offense, Sproles will prove to be a great locker room addition. The Eagles traded for Sproles because of his talent and versatility, but his football intelligence and the mentorship he can provide to the rest of the offense is a big bonus.