Eagles running back paying dividends.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) walks off the field after a preseason game against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Sproles, who is 31, was traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Eagles this past April for a fifth-round draft pick. Through two games this season, Sproles has amassed 350 combined yards (rushing, receiving and return yards) and two touchdowns. His performance against the Colts garnered him his first NFC Offensive Player of the Week award in his career.
Head coach Chip Kelley knows that he has a valuable player in Sproles. During his Thursday press conference, he had the following to say on the running back:
“When you look at Darren, he’s really, really put together and he’s probably the most fit guy on our team. There’s a special quality to him from that standpoint, and I don’t know that we knew that when we got him. When we first looked at him, obviously the dynamic ability as a returner jumps out at you, his ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield and as I said after a couple days dealing with him, really impressed with him as a running back.
“That wasn’t something that was a preconceived notion but after me watching him the first couple days, I’m like this kid has pretty good ability as a running back. And when you see his size, he’s a little different than your prototypical small guy.”
Kelly is not the only one who is happy with Sproles.
“When you watch the last two games, he is a dynamic playmaker from the running back position” stated offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “He does a great job running the football. That run that he scored on after LeSean (McCoy) ran the ball in on third-and-15 shows you what we are hoping to get out of that group. I tell you what, he’s done an outstanding job, not to mention what he did with the ball when we threw him screens.”
On the other side of the trade, the Saints turned the draft pick they received from the Eagles into Ronald Powell, an outside linebacker out of Florida. Powell has yet to register a tackle this season. Although the deal was interpreted to be a way to clear salary cap space, the prospect for trading an established player who was an integral part of a team’s offense for an unknown, unproven player remains a tactic that some general managers use to this day.
The Saints have tried to fill the void of the loss of Sproles in a few ways. Brandin Cooks, the Saints’ first-round draft pick, has taken over for Sproles as their punt returner and in the passing game. He has even had a few rushing attempts. However, it will be some time before it can be determined if Cooks is a suitable replacement in Sean Peyton’s offense.
It is not the first time that the Eagles have benefited from this situation. Jason Peters, the starting left tackle and perennial Pro Bowl candidate, was traded from Buffalo to Philadelphia for the first- and fourth-round draft pick in the 2009 draft. Center Eric Wood, who was the first selection, has been a serviceable lineman and still is on the Bills today. Tight end Shawn Nelson, on the other hand, is no longer playing in the NFL.
Other players like Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Chris Ivory, are all some of the players that were traded for draft picks and went on to have decent careers while picks they were traded for have led to marginal players at best.
Even though it is early, it will be interesting to track how Sproles and Powell will do in the next few years. Powell could wind up being an excellent player or Sproles’ career can go down from here or vice versa. There is no concrete formula to determine who will be better. One thing is for sure; Philadelphia has received an early gift this season.