By Michael Donovan
Darren Sproles is coming back for his 15th NFL season, and Eagles fans are ecstatic.
But it’s not going to be a nostalgia trip.
Don’t expect Sproles to lead the Eagles’ ground attack. Instead, he’ll likely be utilized as in years past: as a receiver out of the backfield. The slippery back has tallied 547 receptions for 4,816 yards and 32 touchdowns for his career. That total is 1,330 more yards than what he has compiled as a rusher.
Throughout his tenure as an Eagle, Sproles has rushed more than he has received. However, this Birds team doesn’t have a need to do so in 2019, considering the talent on board. Instead, expect a throwback to his days in New Orleans. As a Saint, Sproles gained more targets than rushes in all three seasons. In all but one, he had more catches than receptions — and in the one he didn’t, he had 87 rushes to 86 catches.
Sproles is a luxury for the Eagles. Their talent is considered to be deep. Their running back room is one of the better units in the NFL, in terms of a committee. For the sake of the 36-year-old, don’t expect Philadelphia to run him into the ground. Instead, expect limited utilization.
However, just because Sproles won’t be a lead back doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t exploit his talents. As previously noted, I assume he’ll be used as a receiver more than often than not. Currently, Sproles may be the best pure third-down receiving back Philly has. The Eagles will assuredly find a way to create mismatches out of the backfield and in the slot. He may also be used on punt returns, albeit sparingly.
You can watch a Darren Sproles highlight reel for an hour, and it wouldn’t even scrape the surface in capturing all of his joystick-like abilities. The former Charger and Saint — now an Eagle — has made a name for himself as an impossible tackle despite his short stature. Despite playing just six games in 2018, the back forced eight missed tackles and accumulated a high 18.2% juke rate, according to PlayerProfiler.com.