By Michael McCarthy

Running back Darren Sproles (photo above in last season’s Saints playoff victory over the Birds) was one of several players fielding punts and kickoffs during the Eagles minicamp that just ended..

Sproles, who was acquired in a March trade with New Orleans, is a dangerous returner who would upgrade a team that finished 27th in punt returns and 26th in kickoff returns last season.

But he turned 31 yesterday and the Eagles have to watch how they use him. He played 364 snaps with the Saints last year and had 165 touches, including 71 receptions.

How much he’s used as a returner by the Eagles probably will depend on how much head coach Chip Kelly plans to use him on offense.

“We know Sproles is a dynamic returner,” special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. “I don’t know that age is a limitation, but it’s certainly a factor. We have to be cautious about what we ask him to do and when we ask him to do it.”

During the minicamp, five players, including Sproles, have been fielding punts. The other five are Damaris Johnson, who split the punt return chores with the departed DeSean Jackson last year; Jeremy Maclin who is coming off a torn ACL; wide receiver Riley Cooper and second-round rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews.

Sproles, Matthews, Johnson, cornerback Nolan Carroll, third-round rookie wide receiver Josh Huff, and cornerback Brandon Boykin who has been the team’s primary kick returner the last two seasons, all have taken turns fielding kickoffs.

“Right now, we’re just rolling guys through there, really working on the fundamentals of how to field the kick and how to catch a kickoff or punt and how to get up field a little bit,” Kelly said. “Who it’s going to end up being, it’s too early to say. But Darren is the one proven commodity that has had a lot of success in the league doing it.”

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