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 reportedly losing top executive Andrew Berry

Eagles reportedly losing top executive Andrew Berry

Less than a year after the Eagles created a high-level front office position for Andrew Berry, they are losing their Vice President of Football operations to the Cleveland Browns, according to multiple reports.

Berry is the Browns’ new general manager and executive vice president.

The Eagles brought Berry aboard last Feb. 25 after he spent the previous three years with the Browns as their VP of player personnel. At the time, the Eagles just really liked Berry and wanted to find a way to add a young, fast-rising football mind to the building. But with Howie Roseman firmly entrenched as the general manager in Philadelphia, Berry will head back to Cleveland.

According to NFL.com, Berry got a five-year deal and will have 53-man roster control in Cleveland. 

At 32 years old, Berry will become the youngest general manager in NFL history, taking away that title from Roseman, who was 34 when he was promoted back in 2010.

This is the second straight year the Eagles have lost a top executive to a GM job elsewhere. Last offseason, the Jets hired VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to be their general manager.

It isn’t a surprise that Berry is getting a GM job, but perhaps it’s slightly surprising it’s happening so quickly. But he’s a Harvard-educated former football player with a degree in economics and computer science. He began his NFL career with the Colts in 2009 and worked his way up from a scouting assistant to pro scouting coordinator before he left in 2015 to join the Browns.

Just a few days ago, Vikings assistant GM George Paton took himself out of the running for the GM job in Cleveland, which left Berry as the clear-cut top candidate and the Browns moved quickly. While Paton had a long history with new Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, Berry got to know Stefanski during the coaching search just after the 2018 season when the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a vice president job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

In Cleveland, Berry will be a full-fledged GM with roster control. His time in Philadelphia didn’t last very long.

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 3.0: Some heavy hitters weigh in

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 3.0: Some heavy hitters weigh in

The Senior Bowl is over and the next big event in the pre-draft process will be the combine in Indianapolis that begins in less than a month.

That’s when the pre-draft season will kick into high gear.

But we’ve already seen dozens of first-round mock drafts with different possibilities for the Eagles with that 21st pick. Here are a few more, starting with a couple mock drafts from heavy hitters in the industry:

ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr.

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

What they said: Philadelphia has to upgrade at wide receiver — its two top pass-catchers in 2019 were tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert — and the depth and talent in this class could set up perfectly for the Eagles to have several options here. At 6-foot-4, Higgins is the biggest wideout of the first-round talents, a jump-ball specialist and touchdown machine (25 the past two seasons). He's not super explosive like Lamb, Jeudy or Ruggs, but he'll box out cornerbacks in the red zone and pick up first downs, not unlike Alshon Jeffery, who struggled to stay on the field this season. The Eagles would have liked more from second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in Year 1, and I still like his upside, but Higgins has No. 1 receiver talent. As is always the case for Philadelphia, this is another spot to watch for an edge rusher.

My take on Higgins: Higgins has been the most popular pick in these early mock drafts for the Eagles and it’s easy to understand why. He’s a solid, do-it-all receiver who had a very good college career. It’s worth noting that Kiper has Higgins as the fourth receiver off the board, after CeeDee Lamb (12), Jerry Jeudy (13) and Henry Ruggs III (15). In other years, I’d imagine a player like Higgins would go earlier but this is a really good receiver class. He has an impressive size/speed combination and getting him at 21 would probably make most fans pretty happy.

NFL.com, Daniel Jeremiah 

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

What they said: Speed! The Eagles are focused on getting faster this offseason, and Ruggs is the most explosive player in the draft.

SI.com, Kevin Hanson

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

What they said: Given the depth at receiver in this year’s draft class, one of the best in recent memory, it’s possible some of them get pushed down a bit. A top-12 prospect on my big board, Ruggs would provide the Eagles with the vertical element their passing attack has lacked. A legitimate threat to the NFL combine’s 40-yard dash record, Ruggs scored on one of four touches over his collegiate career.

My take on Ruggs III: I’m not very convinced Ruggs will be on the board when the Eagles pick at 21 but if he is, this would be an exciting selection. It’s worth noting that Jeremiah used to work in the Eagles’ front office and his expectation is that the Eagles will focus on getting faster this offseason; that should be an obvious goal. And Ruggs would certainly help with that.

In recent years when Joe Douglas was around, the Eagles really prioritized college productivity. But at his year-end press conference, Howie Roseman noted that some of the receivers who had good rookie seasons in 2019 didn’t have incredible college production. So when we look at Ruggs’ stats, they’re not as impressive as some of the other receivers in this class:

2018: 46 catches, 741 yards (16.1), 11 touchdowns

2019: 40 catches, 746 yards (18.7) 7 touchdowns

That is something that might have mattered more to the Eagles in years past. Not sure they’ll care as much this time around.

CBS Sports, Ryan Wilson

Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama

What they said: Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry were the Eagles' two most efficient pass rushers, according to PFF, but Graham is 31 and Curry appears headed for free agency. Lewis was able to stay healthy in 2019 after suffering injuries in the two previous seasons and he looked pretty good. He looked even better at the Senior Bowl last week, and that will only help his draft stock.

My take on Lewis: It’s probably never a crazy idea to mock a lineman to the Eagles in the first round. Since 2010, the Eagles have had nine first-round picks and seven of them have been used on the OL or DL (four of those seven on DL). The Eagles will return Graham and Barnett as their starters in 2020 but Graham is on the wrong side of 30 and Barnett hasn’t developed into a star. Perhaps they will look for some edge help in Round 1. The part of Wilson’s mock draft I’m having a hard time with is that Ruggs comes off the board with the next pick at 22. If that happened, Eagles fans wouldn’t be very happy.

Baltimore Sun, C.J. Doon 

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

What they said: With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery returning from injury, the need for a wide receiver isn’t as strong as the need for help in the secondary. Delpit was hit-and-miss in 2019, but his coverage skills would be a welcome addition to a beleaguered group of defenders.

My take on Delpit: I really like Delpit and in my first mock draft last week, I had him going to the Eagles too. Safety might not be as pressing a need as receiver or cornerback but it’s an important position in the Eagles’ defense and one in question right now. In my mock, I had the top four receivers off the board, which left the Eagles in a position to take BPA and Delpit was that for me. But in this mock draft, Higgins is still available and he goes to the Bills at 22. Again, another situation that probably wouldn’t make Eagles fans very happy.

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