Eagles

Darren Sproles open to return, but should Eagles be?

Darren Sproles open to return, but should Eagles be?

Darren Sproles was ready to make 2017 his final NFL season. Then he tore his ACL and broke his forearm. 

He rehabbed and planned to make 2018 his final NFL season. Then he dealt with a hamstring injury that limited him to just six games. 

Sproles, 35, hasn’t retired yet. And based on his interview with Dr. David Chao on the the Pro Football Doc podcast, it seems like he might not exactly be ready to walk away. 

“If the right team calls, then I’ll go back,” Sproles said. 

The implication here is pretty obvious and Chao (who was a doctor with the Chargers when Sproles played there) brought it up. In this case, the right team would be the Eagles, Chargers or Saints. Those are the three teams for which Sproles has played in his career. He still lives in San Diego (even though the Chargers now play in L.A.) and he’d still be interested in rejoining the Eagles. All three teams were playoff teams in 2018. 

Sproles has a Super Bowl ring, but he told Chao he actually wants to play in the big game. He was sidelined with a torn ACL for Super Bowl LII. 

So — the big question — should the Eagles bring him back? 

For now, the Eagles have Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and Corey Clement considered to be their top three running backs. Bringing back Sproles would pretty much ensure his spot on the roster. But later this month, Sproles will turn 36 and as age-defying as he’s been, how much does he really have left? 

When he came back in 2018, he gave the Eagles a little boost at the end of the regular season, but didn’t contribute much in the two playoff games. He averaged 1.6 yards per carry in the playoffs. But in the six regular-season games, he scored three offensive touchdowns and helped get the Eagles into the postseason. 

Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman have praised Sproles publicly, but they’d have to gauge how much he can really help them in 2019. Toward the end of 2018, Sproles definitely showed some flashes. But at times during his tenure as head coach, Pederson has probably relied on Sproles a little too much. If Sproles were to come back in 2019 (which I honestly think might still be unlikely), his main role would have to be as a punt returner (the Eagles don’t really have one right now) and occasional change-of-pace back on offense. Could Sproles help in a very limited role? Yeah, maybe.

If the Eagles did bring back Sproles, it would be bad news for Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott, Josh Adams and Donnel Pumphrey, who are all competing for the fourth running back job. 

The reason Sproles is open to a return in 2019 is the same reason he returned in 2018. He doesn’t want to go out with an injury. 

“That’s my whole thing,” Sproles said. “I want a full year. I want to get up to top four or top five in all-purpose yards, like ever. Right now, I’m No. 6. If I would have played a full year last year, I’d be No. 4 right now.”

Here’s the top 10 in all-purpose yards: 

1. Jerry Rice: 23,546
2. Brian Mitchell: 23,330
3. Walter Payton: 21,803
4. Emmitt Smith: 21,564
5. Tim Brown: 19,682
6. Darren Sproles: 19,520
7. Marshall Faulk: 19,190
8. Steve Smith: 19,180
9. Frank Gore: 18,551
10. LaDainian Tomlinson: 18,456 

If Sproles plays in 2019, he’d very likely catch Brown, who is just 162 yards ahead of him. Catching Smith, who is over 2,000 yards ahead of him, probably isn't going to happen. 

At one point this offseason, Sproles said he was going to wait until May to make his decision about retirement. Well, it’s June and he seems to want to play another year. Just before the podcast interview with Chao, Sproles finished up a 2½-hour workout. The Eagles don’t have to worry about Sproles’ fitness level. He’s going to be in shape. They just have to figure out if they want to make the call. 

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Replacing Jordan Hicks at linebacker

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Replacing Jordan Hicks at linebacker

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. We already looked at cornerback and running back.            

Up today: Linebacker 

Names to know 

Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Zach Brown, Nate Gerry, L.J. Fort, Paul Worrilow, T.J. Edwards, Alex Singleton, Joey Alfieri 

What to watch 

While he struggled to stay healthy over his four years in Philadelphia, Jordan Hicks was an effective player when he was on the field. After Hicks bolted in free agency, taking a big deal from the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles will need to replace him. 

That starts with Bradham, who will be the linebacker who never leaves the field in 2019. He’ll be out there in the Eagles’ base defense, nickel defense and dime defense. It’s a role he took over in Hicks’ absence anyway. Bradham is recovering from injury, but he expects to be ready for training camp. 

The front-runners to be the other two starting linebackers should be Grugier-Hill and free-agent pickup Brown. Grugier-Hill started the first 10 games of his career last season and did a nice job. I think there’s probably even more untapped potential. Brown, meanwhile, is a former Pro Bowler and spent the last two years in Washington. He’s a seven-year vet with 74 starts under his belt. He fell out of favor in Washington some and was released this offseason, a move that saved Washington a bunch of cap money. Brown has been a good player, but KGH is probably better in coverage. 

We’ll see which of those two stays on the field more. One of them will be a part-time player in the team’s base package. While there are technically three starting linebackers in their base package, the Eagles spend around 75 percent of their time in nickel. 

After those three, it’s a competition to make the roster. Gerry seems to be an often-forgotten player, but he knows the defense (he’s been here since 2017) and is the type of hybrid player the Eagles like in this NFL. Fort was brought in as a special teamer with upside; he’ll be on the roster for teams and likely as a backup. 

Worrilow came back from an ACL tear, but missed some time this spring. Edwards and Alfieri are two talented UDFAs and Singleton was a star in the CFL. One of those rookies could be a practice squad fit. 

One of the players from the paragraph above could make the team, but it depends on how many linebackers the Eagles keep. They kept five on their initial 53-man last year, but Bradham didn’t count because he was suspended. They kept six to start 2017 and kept just four after 2016’s training camp. 

Prediction 

Bradham doesn’t leave the field this year; that’s not much of a shocker. But I think Grugier-Hill ends up playing more than Brown. I think he’s better suited for playing nickel downs. The Eagles will keep five or six linebackers: Bradham, KGH, Brown, Fort, Gerry and maybe either Worrilow or Edwards. 

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Popular former Eagles special teams player Chris Maragos announces his retirement

Popular former Eagles special teams player Chris Maragos announces his retirement

After missing all of last season and recently undergoing a third surgery for a significant knee injury suffered in 2017, former Eagles special teams captain Chris Maragos officially announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon.

Maragos, 32, suffered a torn PCL on Oct. 12, 2017, and hasn’t played since. The Eagles officially released him in February.

Here is the announcement from Maragos:

Unfortunately, his time in the NFL was cut short by the injury against the Panthers in Week 6 of 2017. But he had a pretty good and improbable career.

After a couple years at Western Michigan, Maragos transferred to Wisconsin to continue his college career as a wide receiver. But in 2008, Badgers then-head coach Bret Bielema watched a play in which Maragos tracked down a defensive back after an interception and moved him to defense immediately and it stuck. Maragos played defensive back for his final two college seasons.

After going undrafted in 2010, Maragos played three games with the 49ers before carving out a role with the Seahawks for three seasons, from 2011-13. He joined the Eagles in 2014 and almost immediately became a difference maker on special teams and eventually became a special teams captain. For part of his time in Philly, he even had a significant role on defense, but he’ll be remembered for his contributions on special teams.

During his NFL career, Maragos played in 99 games (53 with the Eagles) with three starts. He was a part of two Super Bowl winners. Even though he was on the shelf with his knee injury by the time the Eagles played in Super Bowl LII, he was an important part of that team. He was one of the leaders of the injured group that included Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles.

Even last season, Maragos was still around the team, offering a veteran voice for some younger players.

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