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Projecting Sproles' Impact In 2014

Posted May 28, 2014

The number is astounding: 13,806 all-purpose yards since the 2007 season. Darren Sproles has been prolific in a variety of ways in the NFL, and how he fits into the Eagles' plans for 2014 is a fascinating topic to tackle ...

The number is astounding: 13,806 all-purpose yards since the 2007 season. Darren Sproles has been prolific in a variety of ways in the NFL, and how he fits into the Eagles' plans for 2014 is a fascinating topic to tackle.

It's far too early to know for certain what head coach Chip Kelly has in mind for Sproles, the dynamic all-around talent the Eagles acquired in a trade with New Orleans back in March. How much of a factor will Sproles be from the line of scrimmage? Is he a running back? Will Sproles be more of a target in the passing game? How about the return phase of action?

"I don't know," said Sproles on Wednesday in a session with reporters. "Whatever they give me."

Sproles is in the beginning stages of having a grasp of what the offense is all about as the Eagles continue their Organized Team Activities. He's excited, to say the least. He likes the concept of "a lot of space out there, which is good for me," and space was indeed plentiful in Kelly's first season at the helm when the Eagles led the league in rushing, paced the NFL in explosive plays (plays of over 20 yards) and ranked fourth in total points scored.

If Sproles continues tracking at the production he's had since '07, the Eagles will have a matchup nightmare for defenses, who also have to contend with running back LeSean McCoy, a deep and talented group of tight ends and wide receivers that are big, block well and gulp up yards after the catch.

That's the goal. That's the hope. The acquisition of Sproles was heralded by league observers as a strong one for the Eagles, and the common theme is that Kelly has another "toy" with which to play in the offense.

Certainly, Kelly has another versatile piece to employ. Sproles has never carried more than 93 times in his career, and instead has been used as a hybrid player, a new generation of an offensive chess piece. Sproles has produced 3,307 yards and 27 touchdowns with his 375 receptions since 2007 and only Ray Rice (369 catches for 3,304 yards) and Matt Forte (341 catches for 2,919 yards) have come close to that production out of the backfield.

But what is the perfect blend of Sproles for the Eagles? Do the offensive coaches want to find ways to reduce McCoy's workload after a 366-touch season in 2013? Are there ways for the coaches to incorporate both Sproles and McCoy into the offense together and challenge defenses to cover that much speed and quickness in space?

Sproles was asked if he has a sense of what his role might be, and, understandably, he doesn't know. The coaches are still finding out where he fits best. He is still digesting the verbiage and the tempo of the offense. All of the particulars will come in due time.

Make no mistake, Sproles has huge plans. He thinks he's every bit as quick and as fast as he's ever been, and his body is legitimately shredded to take on any and all duties. Each day that goes by strengthens the understanding of the system and the responsibilities within the offense and special teams and just the way the Eagles go about business.

But the enduring question remains: How will the Eagles use Sproles? It's just not as simple as lining him up in the slot and seeing how the defense matches up with him. Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will add their creative touches and see how Sproles best fits the offense.

So we wait and we project and we salivate at the prospects. Whether it's as a running back or a receiver or a return man or all of the above, Sproles is here to make a difference, to be a factor, to add a new dimension to the football team, just as he's done over the last seven seasons in San Diego and New Orleans as a one-of-a-kind player in the NFL.

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