I’d assume the Cowboys are going to be punting on Sunday night, at least a few times. I can’t see that juggernaut offense marching up and down Lincoln Financial Field and stringing together 17-play drives on national television.
DeAndre Carter won’t be fielding those punts, since he now plays for the Houston Texans. Darren Sproles was in line to re-assume return duties, but he’s now out of the equation after reportedly tweaking the hamstring injury that’s kept him out for much of the year:
After Philadelphia HC Doug Pederson said he expected Darren Sproles to play Sunday vs the Cowboys, the Eagles’ veteran RB went to practice and aggravated his hamstring injury, and now is expected to be sidelined, per sources. Sproles was highly disappointed, as were the Eagles.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 8, 2018
The good thing is that the Eagles are okay on kick returns, which admittedly don’t mean much considering the recent NFL rule changes. Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Shelton Gibson are capable enough back there.
For punt returning, it looks like Clement is gonna have to be the guy, because nobody else on the roster has more than one attempt on the season:
Clement did not return any punts last year. That duty went to Kenjon Barner, who caught 42 while Sproles caught 6 and Torrey Smith was back there to snag one. My only problem with using Clement is that I still feel like he deserves a bigger role in the running game. Nothing against Smallwood, who has been serviceable this year, but I’m not sure how he continues to finish games with more carries than Clement, who plays significant special teams snaps.
Agholor is an interesting name, but that one return you see above is the only attempt of his career.
Certainly they don’t use Golden Tate, do they? Special Teams Coordinator Dave Fipp was asked about that this week.
“We’ve gone against him, we’ve seen him on film,” Fipp said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s a really competitive punt returner. We really like his skillset back there. He has a handful of kickoff returns. So I think there’s a role there at some point, somewhere, depending on who we have available to us. But he’s certainly a competitive player.”
Tate does have punt return history, with 92 career attempts spread out over the course of his career:
He hadn’t been featured in that role for Detroit in recent years, but the Eagles can do a lot worse than using their new weapon in this fashion. Similar to Clement, though, I don’t know if I like the idea of having Tate return punts because I think he’s a guy who should be heavily featured in the offensive game plan. Shrug. I guess he can do both. It’s not like there are a ton of punts in a game, usually 3-5 on average.
Of course the bigger picture is Howie Roseman’s decision to re-sign Spoles, a 35 year old coming off a combination torn ACL and broken arm that took place in week three last season. On paper, it seemed like a reasonable move at the time, considering the fact that the Birds were returning Jay Ajayi and Clement in the running game and could use Sproles to cover for Barner, who ultimately wound up in New England.
It hasn’t worked out at all.
Sproles has only played four of the Eagles’ last 27 games. He said he came back for a final season because he didn’t want to end his career on a sour note, but it looks like that’s unfortunately going to be the case anyway.
Roseman’s attachment to Sproles has resulted in a constant shuffling of players from the practice squad, to the active roster, to being waived a few days later. It’s hard to disagree with this:
The #Eagles’ handling of Darren Sproles led to mistake after mistake. Defense was beaten up but they went with three DTs and four CBs to keep Sproles on the roster. Now they cut DeAndre Carter and he’s claimed and Sproles has a setback. Just poor roster management.
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) November 8, 2018
No, DeAndre Carter isn’t the second coming of Deion Sanders, but he was averaging more than 10 yards per punt return. He worked his way onto the roster with a fantastic training camp and preseason, then was waived to make room for a 35 year old who can’t stay healthy. Now Carter is playing for another team.
Others have pointed out that Chance Warmack continues to collect $2 million to sit on the bench as an inactive third string guard. Gibson hasn’t gotten much of a sniff while the Birds cycle through Kamar Aiken and Markus Wheaton and other fringe guys who come and go in the blink of an eye.
It’s hard to question Howie Roseman after he constructed a Super Bowl winning roster, but there have definitely been some misses this season.