Eagles Film Review: Using Darren Sproles as a decoy on long screen play

Eagles Film Review: Using Darren Sproles as a decoy on long screen play

No, it didn’t count. 

The 57-yard touchdown pass on a misdirection screen from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz was called back for an illegal formation on 3rd-and-6. 

Still, it was a heckuva play. And it all started with how much attention Darren Sproles creates whenever he’s in the game. 

“It's like every time Sproles steps on the field, the defense is yelling, ‘Watch the draw, watch the screen! Watch the draw, watch the screen.’ I mean, he is a magnet,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “He just — he's a dynamic player. He has a way of making big plays. You guys have seen it a lot where Darren makes a play, even when he gets tackled how he gets up and pats the ball, he feels like he should have got 10 more yards than he got. And I think that's because great players, they see it in their mind. 

“He sees the opening; he sees where he wants to get to and so he just draws a lot of attention. So we have to continue to find ways. I think we have done a fairly good job of that, of not only getting him the ball, but using him as a decoy when we can.”

This touchdown would have given the Eagles a lead in the second quarter. Sure, it didn’t count, but it’s the type of play the Eagles should try to use every once in a while. 

Here’s a closer look:

Wentz lines up in a pistol formation, with Sproles behind him. Ertz is off right tackle and the Eagles have trips to the left. 

You'll notice Nelson Agholor isn't on the line of scrimmage, which negated the play, but let's take a look at the play itself and why it would have been successful had it counted. 

Before the snap, Sproles sprints left and Earl Thomas follows, taking him completely out of the play. Because Sproles is such a dynamic playmaker, the defense has to take notice when he's in motion for what seems like a little swing pass. 

At this point, the three receivers to the left look ready to block and Thomas is sprinting toward where he thinks the ball will be, leaving one deep safety in Kam Chancellor. 

Also, take a look at Ertz off the right tackle. He engages his block just long enough. 

As Ertz releases his man, you can see that Chancellor has started to cheat toward his right side of the field, where Sproles ran as a decoy. Instead, Ertz is open for a screen pass, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has a huge block, and center Jason Kelce is ready to sprint. 

Once Ertz catches the ball, Kelce is already out in front by about four yards. Most centers wouldn't have the speed to lead block for 45 yards, but Kelce isn't most centers. While fans always seem to notice when Kelce gets blown up by a nose tackle, this is what he’s always been very good at. 

Without Kelce, Chancellor is probably going to take a good angle and stop Ertz around here. But Kelce is out in front and while he doesn't actually need to block Chancellor with his hands yet, he does force the safety to stay wide. 

Ertz has gotten a lot of flak this season for not having a ton of yards after catch, but take a look at this cut-back effort. With three guys around him and with Kelce off balance, Ertz cuts back inside and gets into the end zone. 

No, this play didn't count. A stupid illegal formation penalty nullified it. But it was a tremendous play call and it's something the Eagles would be wise to go back to later in the season.

NFL Notes: Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended one game for shoving official

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NFL Notes: Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended one game for shoving official

NEW YORK — Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch was suspended for one game without pay by the NFL on Friday for shoving a game official during the Raiders' victory over Kansas City on Thursday night.

Lynch was ejected from the game after he shoved line judge Julian Mapp.

The scuffle started when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was hit late on a run by Kansas City's Marcus Peters midway through the second quarter. Raiders offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn immediately confronted Peters, and Lynch sprinted onto the field from the bench to join the fray. Mapp tried to break up the fight, but Lynch pushed him and grabbed his jersey. Lynch also got a personal foul.

NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote a letter to Lynch, saying:

"You made deliberate physical contact with one of our game officials as he was diffusing an active confrontation between players. You were disqualified for your inappropriate and unsportsmanlike actions. Your conduct included pushing the game official and grabbing his jersey. ... You were not directly involved in the active confrontation that the game official was attempting to diffuse, nor were you a participant in the play that initiated the confrontation. You were the only player from either team who ran from the sideline to midfield to insert himself into a situation in which he was not directly involved."

Lynch will be eligible to return to Oakland's active roster on Oct. 30, the day after the Raiders' game against the Buffalo Bills (see full story). 

Packers place QB Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers placed Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve Friday after the quarterback had surgery on his broken collarbone.

Rodgers would be eligible to return from injured reserve after eight weeks and able to return to practice after six weeks. But coach Mike McCarthy has said that there is no timeline for Rodgers' return, and that the two-time NFL MVP might miss the rest of the season.

"Everything went very well is my understanding talking with (team doctor Pat McKenzie), and he's recovering," McCarthy said Friday morning. The Packers did not practice Friday.

The procedure on Rodgers was done Thursday outside of Green Bay. He was hurt in the first quarter in a 23-10 loss last weekend to the Minnesota Vikings.

Rodgers posted an Instagram message early Friday thanking well-wishers for their "love, support, thoughts and prayers" in a photo of himself in a hospital bed (see full story).

Injured QB Jameis Winston will start against Bills
TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston tested his injured throwing shoulder in practice and will start Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter made the announcement Friday after the third-year quarterback worked with the first-team offense for the first time since spraining his right shoulder during last week's 38-33 loss at Arizona.

Winston was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, taking "mental reps" while backup Ryan Fitzpatrick prepared to face the Bills.

"Jameis threw the ball well today," Koetter said following the team's hour-long practice at One Buccaneer Place. "Jameis is our starter. He will be out there."

Winston has made 37 consecutive starts after entering the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft (see full story). 

Getting over gut-punch loss of Chris Maragos no easy task for Eagles

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Getting over gut-punch loss of Chris Maragos no easy task for Eagles

It was late last Thursday night in Charlotte, well after the celebrating in the locker room subsided and well after most of his teammates had already gotten on the bus to take them to the airport. 

Eagles special teams captain Chris Maragos, with a heavy brace on his right leg, emerged from the visitors' locker room and limped through the cement bowels of Bank of America Stadium. The pissed off look plastered on his face as he left the field after injuring his right knee in the fourth quarter had given way to a look of resignation. He knew. 

Maragos was officially placed on injured reserve Thursday, which means the Eagles will have to continue what they hope will be a magical season without one of their unquestioned leaders. 

"It was rough, man," said fellow special teamer Najee Goode, who collided with Maragos on the play that injured him. "That's my dawg. Chris is a beast. He brings a lot of energy to special teams. But we're going to replace him. He's still going to be there, making sure we do what we need to do." 

If any team is prepared to get over the loss of a player like Maragos it might be these Eagles. They've already survived — thrived, really — after losing Darren Sproles, Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Lane Johnson and Wendell Smallwood for varying lengths of time. 

But like when they lost Sproles for the season, the Eagles are going to miss more than just Maragos' on-field play. He's also the captain of Dave Fipp's excellent special teams' group. Maragos, one of five captains on the team, said at the time he was voted a captain that it meant more to him than any other accomplishment in his career. 

And that's saying a lot. Maragos' story is pretty amazing. He was originally a wide receiver in college until then-Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema saw Maragos track down a DB after an interception and moved him to defense on the spot. Eventually, Maragos worked his way into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and eventually won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks before coming to Philly. 

Early in his time with the Birds, Maragos actually played a significant role on defense. But when the new coaching staff arrived, it was clear his role would be on special teams, so he threw himself back into it. And he's been incredible. 

Last November, Maragos signed a three-year, $6 million extension that goes through the 2019 season and was already off to a good start in 2017. He led the Eagles in special teams snaps with 126 (74 percent) and was tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with six. 

How the heck do you replace that? 

"I don't think you'll ever be able to fill Chris' role," tight end and special teamer Trey Burton said. "He plays such a big role on special teams. He was able to do so much, but we're going to have to do something. Everybody's going to have to step up."

Head coach Doug Pederson said it will be "tough" to replace Maragos, but the team will probably do it with a committee approach at first. That means more Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins. Even recently signed draft pick Nate Gerry will have a role if he's active. 

Perhaps the bigger loss will be Maragos' leadership. He's one of just five players on the team who has won a Super Bowl, and he's always happy to answer any questions his teammates have — about football or life. 

In his absence, Goode said he and Burton will attempt to fulfill that leadership void as much as possible. 

"It's really tough," Burton said. "That's my best friend. Him not being here, being around as much. It's tough for him too because he's out of the loop on things and doesn't really know. He would love to be here and in meetings and stuff but he's not going to be able to."

While Maragos won't be around for a while, Burton expects him to visit more once he's healed more. And he'll certainly be watching. 

"Heart's heavy, but I lift my eyes," Maragos tweeted Thursday. "I'll miss being out there with my brothers but I promise you this, I'll be back stronger!"

That's good news for 2018, but the Eagles will have to go the rest of the season without him. Maragos apparently had a message for his teammates. 

"He knows injuries happen," Goode said. "We play full speed and that's something that comes with the game. His whole thing — Chris is a great team dude — was that we keep propelling and keep getting better for the future."