Despite being held back, Darren Sproles flashes vintage self

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Despite being held back, Darren Sproles flashes vintage self

Darren Sproles’ first Eagles practice since 2017 was nothing memorable. Just a lot of waiting to see how he looked followed by the disappointing revelation he wouldn’t be participating in most of the drills soon after.

At one point, Sproles even appeared to plead his case with running backs coach Duce Staley.

“If they’d let me go full-go right now, I could,” Sproles said Tuesday. “They’re holding me back a little bit.”

The three-time Pro Bowl selection seemed dynamic as ever coming off a torn ACL, albeit in extremely small doses. He ran a little bit. He fielded a few punts. And that was about all.

It sure looked like vintage Sproles out there, but the limited workload provided few firm answers to the question, “How his recovery is progressing?”

We likely won’t get a true sense of where Sproles is at until the pads go on at training camp come July. What we were able to learn, however, is what would compel a soon-to-be 35-year-old running back to re-sign with the Eagles return for his 14th NFL season.

“Because of the way I went out last year,” Sproles said. “If I would’ve retired after that, I might think later on down the line it wouldn’t have been right for me.”

Sproles previously indicated the 2017 campaign might be his last. That was before he suffered the season-ending ACL injury, as well as a broken arm, in a Week 3 victory over the Giants.

The truth is, Sproles was already contemplating another year before the injury. The thought of his career ending in such an unceremonious fashion wasn’t exactly easing him into retirement, either.

[RELATED: Eagles minicamp observations, Day 1]

Watching the Eagles go on to win the Super Bowl while he stood on the sideline was the last straw.

“Man, it was the toughest time ever,” he said. “That’s why I worked so hard to get back, so we could make another run at this thing.”

The Eagles were eager to have Sproles back as well, signing him to a one-year contract in April to reprise his role as a return specialist and situational weapon on offense. For now, the focus is purely on making sure he’s ready to go come September.

“He's ready to get back out there and go full speed,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “But at the same time, I want to make sure these guys are a 100 percent before they're on the field.”

Though Sproles is not yet a full participant at practice, his presence is already being felt.

Sproles was lining up alongside teammates for drills he was not taking part in at Tuesday’s practice and talking shop with teammates. At one point, he pulled Nelson Agholor aside during a punt return drill to discuss fundamentals.

It’s not just Sproles’ ability that’s important to the Eagles. He’s one of the leaders of this team.

Time will tell whether Sproles can overcome his age and injury to once again become a weapon on the field. Then again, if that first practice told us anything, the Eagles will be better off regardless for having him around.

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Jets ask for permission to interview Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas

Philadelphia Eagles

Jets ask for permission to interview Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas

It looks like familiarity with Jets head coach Adam Gase is a prerequisite for the GM job in New York.

For a while, we’ve heard reports that Eagles VP of player personnel Joe Douglas is a favorite to replace Mike Maccagnan, but now we know his competition.

Douglas and Gase worked together briefly in Chicago for a season. Gase and Kelly worked together in Chicago and Denver.

Kelly is the Bears’ assistant director of player personnel. He just finished his second season in that role with Chicago. Kelly and Douglas also worked together in 2015, when Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting and Kelly was the Bears’ director of pro scouting.

It has been previously reported that Douglas is Gase’s pick for the job, so we’ll see how much power the head coach wields in this process.

There has also been a thought that Douglas to the Jets is a done deal. While that might be unsubstantiated, if the Jets do want to hire Douglas, they wouldn’t have to interview any more candidates than these two because Kelly would fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement. The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and GM jobs.

While losing Douglas would be a blow, the Eagles have likely been preparing for that possibility for a while.

"At some point, we are going to lose executives," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in March. "When you’re winning, you’re going to lose executives. I think we’re in a great position to be able to deal with that. We don’t want to put a cap on how many good executives we have in football operations. That would be a competitive mistake."

Douglas could theoretically wait for a more stable offer to appear, but there are just 32 of these jobs available. And if the Jets do give Douglas final say, it would probably be pretty hard for him to turn it down.

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Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

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Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

The Eagles aren’t saying it. Nate Sudfeld isn’t saying it. But Sudfeld is the Eagles’ backup quarterback.

Who an organization brings in this time of year to compete with its backup typically speaks volumes about how they feel about said backup. When executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman proclaimed in February the Eagles were looking at veteran signal callers, people thought Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe Tyrod Taylor.

The Eagles used a fifth-round draft pick on Clayton Thorson and signed free agent Cody Kessler a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Sudfeld received a second-round tender from the club as a restricted free agent this offseason — the second-largest qualifying offer — signing for over $3 million in April.

“It was really exciting,” Sudfeld said after Tuesday’s practice. “That really kind of gave me a vote of confidence and just was really exciting because again I wanted to be here and I have another year to keep getting better and developing here.”

Sudfeld’s contract isn’t guaranteed or anything, so in theory, Kessler — a former third-round pick with 12 not-awful starts under his belt — could steal the job. Yet, even listening to the language Eagles coach Doug Pederson used, it’s clear what the expectation is.

“Nate has an opportunity to really compete and solidify the No. 2 spot,” Pederson said on Tuesday. “He gets an opportunity and it’s a great opportunity for him to do that.

“Depth brings a lot of competition. At that spot, there is no exemption. Looking forward to that.”

Some might think it a gamble for the Eagles to hitch their wagon to a backup who’s thrown just 25 passes in NFL regular season games. Then again, the club’s trust in Sudfeld has never waned, going back to his rookie year in 2017 when he served as Nick Foles’ backup throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Clearly, the Eagles see something in the 25-year-old the rest of us simply haven’t yet had the chance to experience. They stashed him on the 53-man roster for the better part of two seasons. They’ve watched him grow as an athlete and quarterback.

“I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of ways since Washington,” Sudfeld said, referring to where he got his start as a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016. “I think physically I’ve developed a lot. I think I was kind of a late bloomer, so I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the weight room, faster on the field. I just feel like physical development’s been huge. And then just being in the NFL a couple years, some great systems and great coaches, just understanding ball a lot more and seeing situations and being able to apply it.

“I think arm strength has improved, velocity, weight room just in general, core, everything. I just feel a lot better.”

That doesn’t mean the Eagles will simply give Sudfeld his spot. Kessler is an intriguing prospect — he was reasonably accurate and took care of the football (64.2 completion percentage and 5 interceptions in 17 career games) as a member of bad Browns and Jaguars squads. Thorson, too, while likely more of a project, could take a surprise leap at the next level.

Whether because he’s confident in his ability or simply understands the situation, Sudfeld doesn’t seem to be sweating the competition.

“Nothing’s ever going to be handed to you, and you don’t want it that way,” Sudfeld said. “There’s no sense of entitlement. Everything’s earned. I’m just trying to improve myself as much as possible, try to be the best version of myself, work on my craft. I know if I can keep improving and become a better player, it’ll all take care of itself.”

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