Posts for darren sproles

Doug Pederson Wants Darren Sproles Back. Do You?

Kevin Kinkead - March 28, 2018

Free agent Darren Sproles will turn 35 in June.

He tore his ACL and broke his arm on the same play in week three, cutting short his 12th NFL season as the Birds went on to win Super Bowl 52 without him.

From a pure business sense, you’d think the Eagles might move on from an aging star coming off a pair of injuries, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, not according to Doug Pederson, who spoke to reporters yesterday in Orlando:

“He wants to still play. I want him to play, and I want him to be an Eagle,” Pederson said. “I know the way he works, the way he trains, the way he gets himself prepared. If and when he decides to sign and come back, we’re ready for him.”

Pederson’s availability was part of the coaches’ breakfast at the annual league meeting.

More from Pederson via Tim McManus over at ESPN:

“He’s expressed he wants to be back here, he knows we want him back here,” Pederson said at the NFL owners meeting on Tuesday. “He’s a big part of our team. Punt returner. He’s a tremendous back. A third-down guy. So yeah, we’ll see where it falls out.”

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3 Eagles in Pro Bowl + 3 Alternates

Mark Saltveit - December 23, 2015

Three Philadelphia Eagles were named to the Pro Bowl Tuesday: DE Fletcher Cox (finally!), Darren Sproles (as a punt returner), and in a surprise, LT Jason Peters.

Naming Peters is kind of a habit at this point. He has been selected every year since 2008, except for 2012 when he didn’t play at all due to a ruptured achilles tendon. 2015 has not been his strongest year, but he earned the admiration of his fellow players by holding together a very shaky offensive line through force of will, despite his age (34 in a month) and a series of painful injuries.

The number of Pro Bowlers on the Eagles (three) matches the total on Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Undefeated Carolina leads the league with 10, while the other elite teams — New England, Seattle and Arizona — have seven each.

Three Eagles were named as alternates, according to Bleacher Report: center Jason Kelce, safety Malcolm Jenkins, and special teamer Chris Maragos. The team has not confirmed this as of late Tuesday night. Punter Donnie Jones and OLB Connor Barwin were flat out snubbed.

Jeff Skversky of ABC-6 Sports tweeted an interesting list of Eagles Chip Kelly has cut.

Skversky quote on ex-Eagle pro bowlers

The thing is, Shady is the only one on that list selected this year, which kind of undercuts Skversky’s point. (And he was a somewhat controversial pick himself, as the league’s 9th best running back by yardage.) In general, the players Chip got rid of made sense; Todd Herremans, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are all out of the league. It’s the players he chose to replace them that have been a problem.

Meanwhile, one of the most discussed snubs was former Eagle Kurt Coleman, who is having a miracle year with seven interceptions and a touchdown already in 2015. (He had a total of 10 interceptions in his first five NFL years, none of them in 2013 when he played for Chip.) Here’s an argument no one could have predicted a year ago:

Eagles – Panthers Recap: 7 Drops

Mark Saltveit - October 26, 2015

I can’t even….

This was always going to be a tough game, on the road against the undefeated Panthers. Carolina has a legit defense with two outstanding linebackers (Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis) and the league’s hottest CB (Josh Norman), a tough workhorse RB in Jonathan Stewart, and Cam Newton, who can put his shoulder down and power for a TD or first down better than any other quarterback in the NFL. And give Carolina credit for having the best special teams unit the Eagles have faced in a long time, one that matched Philadelpia’s excellent special teams squad-toe-to-toe.

There was some room for optimism, since the Panthers have faced an easy schedule, and the Eagles defensive strength against the run matched up well with them. But the Eagles have struggled all year with chemistry problems and a rash of injuries among offensive linemen and inside linebackers. Vegas favored the Panthers by anywhere from 3 to 8 points.

The Eagles played sporadically great defense and intercepted Cam Newton three times. They ran well (177 yards) against a tough rushing D, and Sam Bradford was actually fairly decent in a Checkdown Charlie kind of way (26-46 for only 205 yards, no TDs, and one interception that wasn’t his fault).

But this loss was especially frustrating because it was so winnable. The Eagles were well on the way toward stealing this game, with three interceptions (they lead the NFL with 19 takeaways) and a beautiful 63-yard touchdown run by Ryan Mathews. But that hope was killed by a ridiculous number of drops and stupid drive-killing penalties on offense. Jason Kelce leads the NFL in offensive holding flags this year with six, one of which helped blow a very promising early drive.

I usually write a numbered list in this place after every game. Not this time. Seven drops is just that – the number of bad drops that Eagles receivers had today. Defining a drop is subjective, I get that. There might actually have been more. Even if you don’t count edge cases such as Zach Ertz’ potential touchdown – where Josh Norman tipped the ball and it floated in front of the TE, tapping his helmet – there were at least seven catchable passes muffed by Philadelphia’s receivers. Completing even half of them would have made this a win tonight.

It started on the very first drive. After three runs by DeMarco Murray for 20 combined yards — an excellent start — he bounced a perfect swing pass off his hands twice and dropped it. Then a false start penalty on Lane Johnson wiped out a 12-yard pass to Zach Ertz for a first down and a sack killed the promising drive.

The next drive was a single play — a four yard pass to (and a little behind) Jordan Matthews that went through his arms. As safety Colin Jones tackled him, the ball moved around and was pinned against Matthews’ stomach, but even then the wide receiver couldn’t get his hands on the ball and Jones pulled it in for an interception.

On it went all night. Matthews again. And again, until Chip had to bench him. Zach Ertz. Sproles, on a screen in the red zone (at the 11 yard line). Josh Huff — who had 11 receptions on 14 targets this year before tonight — in the back of the end zone, a great pass that should have been a touchdown. Then Miles Austin, who had previously caught 4 passes for 52 yards in the game.

The game ended, fittingly, on three ineffective checkdowns to Sproles and a drop. Actually the last play was more like a Hail Mary batted down, but by then it was far too late. Drops and penalties had limited three excellent scoring opportunities, stemming from interceptions, from touchdowns into just two field goals (and a miss that long snapper Jon Dorenbos took responsibility for).

These weren’t Sam Bradford’s fault for once. I count at most two of the drops where Bradford’s throw was a significant contributor, thrown behind the receiver as is Sam’s style. And it wasn’t just one or two receivers, (though Jordan Matthews was especially bad)– they were so common and crushing that the mind races to find some global explanation.

Greg Richards took the technical approach.

Greg Richards Tweet 10-25-2015

That may seem like a crazy idea, but it was seriously considered and posed to actual Eagles players after the game:

josh paunil tweet 10-25-2015

Kyle Scott had a more cynical take that, sadly, seems almost realistic:

kyle scott tweet 10-25-2015

It’s not the end of the world, going into bye week — the Cowboys lost, and the Eagles hold the tiebreaker over the division-leading Giants if they pick up a game on them, which shouldn’t be too hard. These problems should be fixable, but we’re almost halfway into the season and at a certain point, these flaws become what this team is.

Don’t Be So Sure the Eagles will Pass All Night

Mark Saltveit - October 19, 2015

The New York Giants’ pass defense has been terrible all year (304 YPG), and starting CB Prince Amukamara is out injured for tonight’s game.

Meanwhile, they’ve given up the second fewest rushing yards in the NFL, 80.6 YPG, so many writers are predicting that the Eagles will pass all day and forget about the run, especially with their best RB Ryan Mathews a game-time decision.

I don’t think so. The Giants are vulnerable on the ground and I expect Chip Kelly to attack there. Those run defense statistics are misleading, because the Giants haven’t faced many good RBs. Shady was out for Buffalo, and the light had not yet come on for Devonta Freeman when the Giants faced him.

Freeman notched only 1.8 yards per carry in week one (against the Eagles) and 2.1 against NY in week two. Since then he has racked up 462 yards on 84 carries (5.5 YPC).

Last week, though, Carlos Hyde picked up 93 yards against the Giants (4.4 YPC). It was his highest total since week one, and the Giants were hard-pressed to beat the 49ers at home.

New York’s front line is not scary in JPP’s absence, with only 7.0 sacks on the year (tied for last in the NFL). They tend to fade in the second half even against non-tempo teams.

The Eagles’ offensive line finally pulled it together in week 5, after Chip switched to a pass-to-run strategy. If they play that well again this week, there should be a lot of meat on the bone for DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles to chew on.

Eagles – Saints: 7 Blessings

Mark Saltveit - October 11, 2015

Even with their two best DBs — safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Keenan Lewis — back from injury, New Orleans’ defense was the miracle cure for Philadelphia’s offensive woes today. Here are just seven of the many blessings that this game bestowed upon the Birds.

1. The Pass Rush

It helped that the Saints starting left tackle (Terron Armstead) and left guard (Jahri Evans) were out with injuries. But the Eagles took full advantage, with three sacks, four QB hits and 5 tackles for loss just in the first half. (They finished with five, seven and seven for the game.)

Fletcher Cox abused Andrus Peat, Armstead’s replacement at left tackle. He finished with three sacks — and forced fumbles on two of them. Cox recovered one of them himself. Rookie Jordan Hicks, of course, got the other one. He has three fumble recoveries in just his first four games, which has to be an NFL record.

Against a great QB like Drew Brees, this penetration and disruption was crucial for taking control of the game.

2. Caleb Sturgis was a great kicker (mostly).

The goat of last week’s game wasn’t exactly the GOAT this week, but that one guy who picked him sarcastically in fantasy had a very happy surprise. Sturgis drilled four field goals and was the team’s leading scorer.

Sure, he didn’t get a touchback until his fourth kickoff, and Chip Kelly went for it on fourth and seven twice at the beginning of the game just to avoid the pain of watching Sturgis try a FG. But at the end of the first half his 39-yarder was perfect, dead center and with plenty of distance to spare. In the second half, an emboldened Chip Kelly called Sturgis’ number again three more times and he delivered. One was as long as 41 yards!

Of course Sturgis missed an extra point in the second half just to be true to his self. On the flip side, he gets credit for the return of Big Balls Chip. Many don’t realize it, but Kelly’s aggressiveness at Oregon had a lot to do with having bad kickers there too.

3. Excellent pass defense

Yes, New Orleans had some big pass plays. Drew Brees is a lock for the Hall of Fame, and even with Jimmy Graham gone he has some great weapons, notably Brandin Cooks (who Chip Kelly tried to trade up for in the 2014 draft).

But the Birds’ secondary had a great game as a group, including Byron Maxwell (who has taken plenty of Continue Reading

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Is Sam Bradford Bad?

Mark Saltveit - October 5, 2015

This is an ugly season for the Eagles, and yesterday was an ugly loss to an even uglier team. Leaders get the blame, and for the Eagles that means quarterback Sam Bradford and head coach Chip Kelly, who traded for the former.

Breaking down the tape from yesterday’s game, though, I don’t think Sam is the problem. He was 15-28 for 270 yards, with three TDs and no interceptions (or fumbles.)

That last point is important — Bradford was picked in large part because he protected the ball well. In games one and two, when he had two interceptions per game… well, that was bad. He seems to have corrected that.

Of his 13 incompletions, five were very well defended by the Skins’ secondary. At least two were probably tactical INCs, thrown to minimize interception risk in tight coverage. Three were thrown away under heavy pressure, and he was hit while throwing a fourth, which fell to the turf.

The Skins’ pass rush was brutal in the first half, as Bradford was sacked or nearly sacked six times on the first three drives. It doesn’t seem to be any one lineman getting blown up; Jason Kelce and Jason Peters (before he left the game) got shoved around too. It looked more like communication and adjustment to handle stunts and things like first-down blitzes, which you could blame on chemistry between shifting players on the dinged up line, or bad coaching.

Oddly, Sam’s protection got better after Peters left the game, with a makeshift line featuring Matt Tobin at left tackle, Allen Barbre at left guard, and Dennis Kelly at right guard. Since the Eagles weren’t able to sustain a drive, Chip started calling the long pass, and Bradford delivered. Continue Reading

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Chip Kelly Is Mixing Up The Tempo

Mark Saltveit - September 28, 2015

It was obvious after the brutal loss to the Cowboys that Chip Kelly’s play calling was getting predictable. He repeated just two run plays — the inside zone and the sweep — over and over, and both the Falcons and Cowboys had stunts ready to stymie the blocking scheme. That’s one reason that veterans Jason Peters and Jason Kelce looked as bad as the new starting guards.

Chip has always had a stripped-down playbook. The idea is that better execution (from getting more reps on each play) and the tempo offense would offset the ability of defenses to plan for the handful of plays. But the tempo has been off this year — average time between snaps was up from 22 seconds in 2013 to over 30 in the first two games this year — and if it’s always fast, that’s predictable too.

Sunday against the Jets (and coach Todd Bowles, one of the NFL’s best defensive minds), Kelly mixed it up. Besides different plays (such as the outside zone) and formations (unbalanced lines), he also mixed up the tempo which clearly confused the Jets’ very good defense.

Let’s look at the Eagles’ fifth drive, which started with 8:16 left in the second quarter and the Birds up 10-0. Ryan Mathews ripped off an 11-yard run on the first play, and the Eagles started their next play a relatively quick 22 seconds later.

Then they steadily slowed it down, to 25 seconds and 29 seconds between plays. The TV crew, which hadn’t even bothered showing the countdown on the play clock, hurriedly added it back to the screen. After another first down, Sproles ran for three yards. 25 seconds until the next play, a five-yard pass to Jordan Matthews.

Now, on a key 3rd-and-2, BAM. Bradford motioned everyone to the line quickly, as the Jets scrambled to get into position, and snapped after only 18 seconds. In the picture above, you can see that OLB Lorenzo Mauldin (55) is out of position and desperately racing to his right. In the process, he accidentally sets a pick on on Muhammad Wilkerson (96), and Sproles has a big hole. He picks up 12 yards.

On the next two plays, the Jets naturally scramble to get in position quickly — revealing their formation. Bradford slows it down again, taking 25 and 28 seconds. The second play is a wheel route to Ryan Mathews for a touchdown.

Eagles – Jets: 7 Miracles

Mark Saltveit - September 27, 2015

Pope Francis came to Philly and blessed the Eagles with a sainted victory. Let’s count the many miracles:

1. The Eagles’ offense showed up

Clearly the NFL now runs on anti-logic. Whatever a normal, rational person thinks is going to happen, you can count on the opposite.

The Eagles had the worst offense in the NFL this year going into game 3, despite playing two teams not expected to shut anyone down. The Jets had one of the most fearsome defenses with 10 takeaways in the first two game, an excellent front line and arguably the league’s best secondary (Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist).

So naturally, the Eagles came out running with a lot of success. Ryan Mathews had 67 yards in the first half alone, and added a 23-yard reception. (He ended up with 108 yards on the ground, and a pass reception TD). There were still a number of plays that didn’t work, and Sam Bradford looked erratic at best with 118 yards on 14-28 passing, but it was night and day after the first two miserable games.

Chip Kelly seemed to rediscover half of his playbook, even with DeMarco Murray and Josh Huff out injured. (Maybe there wasn’t room for it all on the new, smaller S8 cards?) He ran outside zone, used unbalanced front lines and even took a shot or two down field (without much success). One of the best things he did was to mix up the tempo, sometimes running out the play clock, then suddenly going tempo when they started relaxing. It was enough to keep New York off balance and get the offense rolling.

2. The Jets defense didn’t

OK, that’s a little overstated. The Eagles had a number of runs stuffed for no gain or a small loss, and Sam Bradford didn’t exactly carve up the Jets secondary. But that had more to do with Bradford’s shaky accuracy and drops by Eagles receivers — sometimes both on the same play — than with any defensive brilliance by New York.

I counted at least three plays that should have been touchdowns or at least very long gains, that were dropped. One was a wheel route to Mathews that was thrown behind him, which he bobbled and dropped. Bradford threw a better ball out in front of him a little later, and even with better coverage, it was touchdown Philadelphia.

This provides a bit of evidence for Chip Kelly’s comments last week, which seemed defensive at the time, that the issue was execution, not a poor scheme or opponents having figured out the Eagles’ playbook.

3. The Birds won the turnover battle

Coming into the game, the Jets led the NFL with a +8 turnover margin, boasting an incredible five takeaways per game. Today, they didn’t get one until there were seven minutes were left, with a helmet hit right on the ball that would have been hard for any running back to hang on through.

Meanwhile, Sam Bradford had given up two INTs in each of the first games, which was agonizing since his low turnover percentage was one of his main selling points. That all changed today. The famous Jets secondary didn’t have a single interception, which was clearly part of the Eagles’ game plan. Bradford seemed to be under orders to avoid interceptions at all costs, favoring dirt-diggers over catchable — but interceptable — balls.

The final TO tally? 4-1 Eagles, with three interceptions and Brandon Marshall’s gift fumble on a weird lateral making a huge difference in the game.

4. Saints help us

Where would this Eagles team be without Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins? That’s true generally, but even more so today, between Sproles’ punt return TD and plays from scrimmage. Meanwhile, Malcolm Jenkins was smothering the Jets’ offense from the first drive, where he stopped Jeremy Kerley a yard short of the first down on 3rd and five.

Unbelievably, the Saints were going to toss both players in the trash. Luckily, the Eagles got wind of their plan to release Sproles and rushed through a trade (5th rounder) to make sure they got him. Brian Solomon wrote in the Eagles Almanac this summer that Chip Kelly was allocating too much money to Sproles, specifically objecting to the $1.5 million guaranteed portion of the Pro Bowler’s $3 million salary. I think that cash is returning the best value on the team’s entire payroll.

5. Jordan Hicks steps up

It’s easy to criticize Chip Kelly for not drafting an offensive lineman in the third round this year. Instead, with none of the OL they liked left on the board, they took ILB Jordan Hicks even though they had three starters (Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, and Demeco Ryans) plus Najee Goode, a solid sub.

That “best player available” choice is looking pretty smart today, despite the disarray on the OL. Hicks has jumped right in as a solid backup and a major playmaker. Last week he strip-sacked Tony Romo while breaking his collarbone. Today, he caught one of Bair’s deflected passes for an interception and scooped up (Connor Barwin’s header of) the failed Brandon Marshall lateral, adding a nice little eleven-yard return.

Rookie CB Eric Rowe also had a good game, with two pass breakups on likely touchdown passes to Devin Smith and an interception. He also shared the tackle on the opening kick return.

6. The battle of the mountain men

One of today’s key matchups was 6’6″ Idaho mountain man DE Brandon Bair, starting for the first time ever in place of the injured Cedric Thornton, vs. Jets QB Gizzly Adams Bon Iver Ryan Fitzpatrick, the most famous Harvard-educated beardo since Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

Fitzpatrick had his moments, including two touchdown passes, but Bair was the clear winner with two batted passes (on caught by Hicks for an interception), another play where he forced a throw into the dirt near Fitzpatrick’s feet, and a full afternoon harassing the much smaller (6’2″) journeyman QB. He will haunt Fitzpatrick’s dreams this week.

7. The Eagles missed Andrew Gardner

The Eagles two new starting guards, Allen Barbre and Andrew Garnder, have been roasted and ridiculed all season long, blamed almost single-handedly for the Eagles’ offensive woes.

A lot of this is unfair, or at least exaggerated. While both have struggled, they’re not the only ones. Future Hall of Fame tackle Jason Peters and Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce have played poorly as well, and the guards that the noobs replaced — Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans — have been equally bad with their new teams. Besides, they’ve looked decent in pass protection, though run blocking has been rough.

Today, the team looked a lot better. We’ll have to study the tape to see how much of this is technique by the new guys, versus a bigger playbook, versus communication between the offensive lineman, but there was one clear sign of the improvement. Gardner left the game in the second half with an injury, and the Eagles’ offense clearly struggled from that point on. I never thought I’d be saying this, but they clearly missed Gardner’s presence in the run game.

Put it all together, and this weekend’s divine intervention produced one big miracle out of these seven smaller ones: everything has changed for this floundering Eagles team. The offense is moving again, the defense was very stout (at least in the first half), and in the crappy NFCE East, the Eagles are right back in the thick of the playoff race.