Is Darren Sproles the Eagles No. 1 Running Back?
Somewhat lost by the lack of playing time for Ryan Mathews and the fumble from Wendell Smallwood was the ascension of 11-year veteran Darren Sproles.
The 2005 fourth-round pick out of Kansas State played in 80-percent of the Eagles offensive snaps, rushing 15 times for 86 yards, catching 5-of-7 passes for 17 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The 86 rushing yards was the fourth-highest total of his career and the most since 10/23/11 when he was a member of the Saints.
Last week in the Eagles win over Minnesota, Sproles rushed just three times for 26 yards and caught 2-of-3 targets for 23 yards.
So why the bigger role for Sproles, and lack of time for Mathews?
"I just think that Darren [Sproles] had the hot hand," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson explained. "Darren was playing outstanding, and he was doing some great things out there. So, [we] just wanted to keep Darren in the game."
Even though Psderson said sitting Mathews wasn't a reaction for his two fourth quarter fumbles, Sproles seized the moment and might just force Pederson's hand - but the coach stopped short of naming Sproles his lead back.
"I can't say that 100 percent," Pederson said when asked if Sproles would be the primary ball-carrier moving forward. "It's something we'll evaluate in these next couple of days and make that determination. But until then, it's still [RB] Ryan Mathews and then Darren in those situations. And then we've got to get Wendell [RB Wendell Smallwood] and Kenjon [RB Kenjon Barner] going a little bit too."
Sproles played 62 snaps on Sunday night to Mathews' eight and for the season he has played 113 more snaps than Mathews. Pederson was asked if he has any concern about Sproles carrying such a heavy work-load.
"Well, I mean, no. I definitely think he's capable," Pederson said when asked if he was concerned about giving Sproles that number of touches at 33 years old.
"I think you don't want to give him any more than what he got yesterday, with his role on special teams and all that, too. If you know Darren like I know Darren, the way he works during the week and the way he prepares himself and prepares his body and mind, he's definitely capable of handling that type of load."
At just 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds, Sproles is one of, if not the smallest running back in the league. But of course he has not lasted this long in the league because of his size, but his ability to make people miss and find little creases and in the defense.
You can argue that Sproles is already the Eagles most important piece on offense, but you do have to wonder how long he can hold up.