Darren Sproles Should Take On Bigger Role in Eagles’ Stretch Run
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Out of sight, out of mind.
That was the best description for Darren Sproles among the Eagles fanbase during what turned out to be a nearly three-month absence with hamstring issues.
A year after a torn ACL and broken forearm derailed what was supposed to be the diminutive running back's final NFL season, leg issues that Sproles himself has called "more than a simple hamstring" wiped out the majority of the re-shoot.
And most had given up on seeing No. 43 while concentrating on developing undrafted rookie Josh Adams and crossing their fingers that the light would go off again for Super Bowl LII hero Corey Clement.
Sproles, though, showed up for practice last week and unlike the first time he attempted to return from the hamstring and was immediately shut down, the now 35-year-old veteran made it through another practice and then another as Doug Pederson explained the plan for Sproles to return against the Washington Redskins was in the works, albeit in a limited fashion.
The coach was true to his word mixing in Sproles here and thereagainst the 'Skins with the highlight being a 14-yard draw play in which Sproles found the end zone for the first time in over two years behind the brilliant blocking of Jason Kelce.
“Having Darren back is awesome; he’s a little spark for us offensively," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "I was extremely stoked to see him back in the end zone. It seems like it’s been a while since he’s been out – it’s been a while since him and I got to play together. So having him back in the huddle, having him make some plays like he did definitely gives the offense a little motivation, a little spark. It was great to see him in.”
Pederson, who spends most games tethered to his normal position on the sideline, even took some time to walk back to the bench and find Sproles after the score.
“I wanted to go over and just sort of say welcome back and congratulate him,” Pederson said.
One of Pederson's strengths as a coach is his relationship with his players but few reach to the level of Sproles when it comes to trust, both on and off the field.
“He's such a class act, and a great leader on this football team,” Pederson explained. “Obviously, it's unfortunate his situation and the injuries that have set him back. But for him to come out tonight and do the things he was able to do, and then the guys -- I do believe the guys really wanted to get him a touchdown at some point, you know? It just meant a lot to him, but it meant a lot to the guys as well.”
Sproles seemed relieved after missing 23 of the previous 27 games Philadelphia has played.
“I don’t know, man. It just felt so good, man, just to get in there. To have a knee [injury] last year, then have a hamstring this year, it just felt great. It felt great to get in there," Sproles said of his jaunt to the south end zone.
Now, as the stakes get even higher with the Eagles set to invade North Texas in an attempt to take over first place in the NFC East, the nine offensive snaps Sproles saw against the Redskins figure to increase.
“Darren is going to be a big part of us and the success as we move forward and we'll keep probably increasing more of his production as we go,” Pederson admitted.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen