BLOWING an ACL while breaking your arm on the same play, is the body’s way of saying “Hey dude, why don’t you read the retirement pamphlet that I got ya”. While I feel bad for RB Darren Sproles, this turn of events has me sort of excited for the Eagles future.
Have you ever wanted to pull your hair out on 3rd and 6, when the QB (Sam Bradford or Carson Wentz), saw nothing downfield, then checked it to Sproles on the right, near the line of scrimmage, for not a first down? You can see that play in your head can’t you. We’ve seen it a lot, right? Too much in fact.
That play used to happen so often, because Sproles is one of the rare RB’s in the NFL who can make something out of it. Frequently he didn’t, but he did often enough for the coaching staff to leave it in as a staple. As a result it became a wobbly crutch, and I for one hated it.
Well good news! That play isn’t really an option anymore. While all of our RB’s can catch, none of them specialize in it. That means the play-calling on first and second down, has to reflect that now. That means the coaching staff has to grow. They must now add a new wrinkle that the NFL has no tape on. Sound good? Well it’s not even the best part.
Every season (going back to Andy Reid’s third year) has involved bringing players who fit the scheme. Coming into this camp, players like Sproles, RB Donnel Pumphrey, and WR Jordan Matthews, were our short passing game. However, with those players now gone, the coaching staff must work scheme towards the strength of the roster, instead working the roster to fit the scheme. They don’t have to scrap the scheme, but they do have to seriously tweak it now.
So what are we working with? Take a look.
RB LeGarrette Blount – 6’0” / 250lbs. RB Wendell Smallwood – 5’10” / 208lbs. RB Corey Clement – 5’10” / 220lbs. RB Kenjon Barner – 5’9” /195
This is the first Eagles RB group since 2003 (Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, and Correll Buckhalter) to feature more than one big back and a downhill blocking O-line. Our run game back then wasn’t perimeter based, it was between the Tackles. This is also before B-West had ever caught 50 balls in a season.
People forget how good we were back then. All three of those RB’s averaged between 4.3 and 5.2 yards per carry, and had at least 675 yards from scrimmage. EACH. Good thing too, because we had to lean on them. In fact, their play put a spotlight on how weak the WR’s were, and so the Front Office stopped fighting us fans, traded for Terrell Owens.
Reminiscent of that Offense, are the players we now have at RB. We also have Wentz, who seems to have found his inner Randall Cunningham. Add that to a much better WR group than any from the Reid-era, along with TE Zach Ertz, who is head and shoulders over Chad Lewis. The Offensive Line just got a quick re-tool, and responded with their best game of the young season. Now just wait until it gels.
What we’re talking about here, is an Offense that works in any temperature, any weather, dome or open air, day or night. The talent is playoff caliber. In fact, the talent is deep-run playoff caliber. We just need to see the play-calling to match.
Sproles injury seems like a dark cloud, but only on the surface. The silver lining is, it will force the coaching staff to take a hard look at some things. The removal of our crutch will force growth, that will pull Doug Pederson further from his Reid upbringing, and more into the guy who brings this city it’s first Super Bowl parade.
Remember where you read that first.
I agree Sproles was blocking progress and clearly lost a step. His injury comes as no surprise. His knee was gimpy last year and they just called his number too many times. They should have let him be a special teams punt returner and used him a handful of times a game. They wore him out.