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Media's Fascination: Sproles' Role

Posted Mar 25, 2014

ORLANDO -- Part of the story at the NFL's Annual Meeting is the league and its reach. Another chapter is the media coverage, which certainly has an eye on the Eagles and how Darren Sproles fits ...

The league winds up its Annual Meeting in Orlando knowing the NFL has never been in a better place and also with a complete understanding that there is more work to be done. The NFL is a 365-day-a-year obsession, Along with the Owners and general managers and club executives present once a year, it's also a chance for the media to congregate and exchange views on teams.

The general consensus about the Eagles? It's a team, say reporters who watch the NFL from a national perspective, heading in the right direction with head coach Chip Kelly leading the way, with a young roster that continues to build and with some strong offseason moves, like the one the Eagles made to acquire Darren Sproles from the New Orleans Saints a few weeks ago at the cost of a fifth-round draft pick in May.

"Here is the one thing you have to remember about Darren Sproles," said Peter King from MMQB.com, "and it's the key number: He averaged 8.3 yards per touch from the line of scrimmage in his three years in New Orleans. You put that kind of production in the offense the way the Eagles run it, the way they spread the field and create matchups, and you are going to have a lot of production. That's what makes Chip Kelly such an effective offensive strategest: He takes what he has and he maximizes the talent he has.

"You saw what the Eagles did last year in the first year of his system. Now you add in the kind of talent that Sproles has, and the versatility he brings, and the pressure that offense will put on defenses on every snap will be enormous."

We don't yet know what Kelly has in mind with Sproles and the truth is that it's likely to develop from one week to the next as the Eagles draw up their X's and O's against specific schemes and defenses as the Eagles probe for weaknesses, but the arrival of Sproles has certainly sparked interest.

The Eagles led the league in rushing yards and in explosive plays and set franchise records for most points scored and most yards gained in a single season in 2013, and then they retained wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and added Sproles.

The theory is, from a national perspective, that the more firepower Kelly has at his disposal, the more multiple his scheme will be. It makes sense. Kelly wants to take advantage of every square inch on the football field. He wants to stretch defenses vertically as well as side to side. Having a player like Sproles, who can line up anywhere in the formation, gives Kelly more options with his personnel.

"I love the move. I think it's one of the key moves in the NFL's offseason," said ESPN's John Clayton. "Getting Sproles for a fifth-round draft pick is a great move. Now we can see Chip take the offense into another dimension and use a player who is unique in the league."

Releasing Jason Avant opens up the slot in the passing game. The Eagles have options there, including Sproles. They want to get him in space and allow him to use his quickness and his explosiveness in the passing game.

"I want to see how much they put Sproles and LeSean McCoy on the field together," said ESPN's Adam Caplan. "If you are a defense, what do you do? The Eagles could use either back as a receiver in the screen game. It's a scary thought for defenses."

Said NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "Sproles is a new toy for Chip Kelly to use. I think, of all the teams where he could have landed, Philadelphia is the best possible spot. Chip is going to maximize what Sproles does and make him an even more dangerous weapon. He's a toy, a race car, in this offense."

The Eagles haven't had a player like Sproles in many years. He's got some Brian Westbrook in him, although Westbrook was more of a running back who was a fantastic receiver. Westbrook carried the ball 16 times a game and caught 4 passes. Sproles, who is expected to be used in the running game as well, may very well be more utilized weapon in the passing game.

"Whatever happens," said Caplan, "it's going to be fun. We saw the success the offense had last year. With Sproles it's going to be that much better."

Sproles is but one piece in the complicated 2014 puzzle, and let's not forget the impact he is expected to make in the return game. His addition has caught the national eye, as everyone wonders just how Chip Kelly and the offensive coaching staff will take this unique talent and apply it to a scheme capable of evolving from one week to the next.

How will defenses adjust when, truth be told, the Eagles will push the limits of Sproles' abilities and won't know the boundaries from one Sunday to another?

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