Eagles

Why Darren Sproles appeared to be the featured back Sunday for Eagles

Why Darren Sproles appeared to be the featured back Sunday for Eagles

All summer, the debate was whether the Eagles would lean on Jordan Howard in the ground attack, or if rookie Miles Sanders would overtake him as the primary ball carrier.

But in Week 1, it felt like Darren Sproles was the Eagles’ lead back — and some people weren’t happy about it.

Sproles didn’t actually top Eagles running backs in playing time or carries against Washington on Sunday. His 23 snaps and nine rushing attempts were well behind Sanders with 36 and 11, though slightly ahead of Howard’s 17 and six.

Sproles’ 49 yards rushing did lead the team however, while the 36-year-old’s 17 total touches between runs, receptions and punt returns was his highest total since 2016. It begged the question why, especially when the Eagles’ offense got off to its slow start.

“When we construct games, we have multiple run schemes and they are designed for different guys,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “The ones that were kind of clicking today were the Darren ones, and so just kept calling his number there.”

Like the rest of the offense though, Sproles was ineffective early. He ended the first half with three runs for eight yards and two catches for nine yards, and a pitch that went for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 stood out as an especially egregious call.

The general sentiment on social media during the first half: Love the guy, but too much Sproles.

Pederson stuck with Sproles, and the 15th-year veteran rewarded his patience, rushing four times for 32 yards on an Eagles touchdown drive to open the third quarter, and tacking on a two-point conversion in the fourth. He also returned four punts for an 11.5 average.

“When I got in there the first half, I felt kind of rusty a little bit,” Sproles said. “But in the second half I kind of got going a little bit.”

The negativity over Sproles’ usage mostly subsided with his turnaround. He’s a useful cog in the offense and a terrific return specialist. He’s also about to move into fifth on the NFL’s career all-purpose yards list at 5-foot-6, which players and fans of all allegiances respect.

"I love that guy and how hard he works for us," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Situationally, from third downs, to punts, he’s a leader on this football team."

Still, the heavy workload raises some concerns. Sproles missed 23 games due to injury in the last two seasons. And he wasn't the Eagles’ most effective back toting the rock on Sunday —  it was Howard, his 7.3 yards per carry more than two full yards better.

Pederson does seem to get enamored with Sproles at times and has never been shy about using him in short yardage situations or giving him the bulk of the carries in defiance of physical stature and age.

It’s understandable to a degree, as Sproles is capable of powerful and explosive plays as a runner or receiver from almost any position in the offense.

Yet, as long as Howard, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, and Sanders, a second-round draft pick, are both in the fold, relying too much on Sproles is going to draw more criticism than ever — especially when it isn’t working.

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Nick Foles willing and ready to help Peyton Manning take down Tom Brady

Nick Foles willing and ready to help Peyton Manning take down Tom Brady

Anytime you put a microphone in front of Peyton Manning, it’s good TV. 

Today is no exception. 

Tiger Wood and Manning are golfing against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady today in a nationally televised showdown, Champions for Charity, to raise money to assist coronavirus relief efforts. 

Manning was trying to figure out who he could have gotten to caddy for him to rattle Brady and he landed on two names. 

“It’s hard to get to him,” Manning said. “So do you bring Eli? Could do that. Do you bring Nick Foles? Maybe.” 

That’s when Brady turned around: “That’s a cheap shot.”  

And Foles is ready! 

Could you imagine: It’s all tied up going into the final hole, Foles walks up next to Manning just before Brady’s tee shot … “You want Philly Philly?” 

Brady might be a six-time Super Bowl champion but he’s lost three times in the big game. To Eli Manning in 2008 and 2011 and to Foles in 2017. 

You might remember that game. You know, the one where Foles outplayed the greatest quarterback in NFL history, winning Super Bowl LII MVP, as the Eagles won 41-33 to kick off the greatest party in Philadelphia’s history. 

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Why Merrill Reese was afraid of blowing call of Eagles' Super Bowl LII win

Why Merrill Reese was afraid of blowing call of Eagles' Super Bowl LII win

Merrill Reese had been waiting 40 year for this moment.
 
And he was nervous.
 
After announcing Eagles games since 1977, including two Super Bowl losses, he was about to call one of the biggest plays in Eagles history.
 
Nine seconds left. 
 
Eagles 41, Patriots 33. 
 
Patriots near midfield. 
 
One play left.

People say, ‘Were you nervous before that last play,' and the answer is yes,” Reese recalled this week on the Eagle Eye podcast. “But my nervousness was not on whether or not the Eagles would win that game. Because Brady didn’t have an Aaron Rodgers arm, and I had a feeling he was going to have trouble getting it there at that point where a Rodgers gets it way up in the air. I thought the Eagles were going to hold on. I was worried because we were sitting in the exact opposite corner of the end zone in Minneapolis and I was 110 yards away from where that ball landed and I didn’t want to be known as the announcer who blew the Super Bowl call. That’s why I was nervous.

As the world watched, Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass fell incomplete, the clock hit 0:00, the Eagles had their first Super Bowl championship and Reese didn’t blow the call.

As it went up there I followed it and I was able to see it, and I said, ‘It’s batted around and it’s … INCOMPLETE.’ Quickly, I looked up at the clock and I said, ‘The game is over and the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions, and then I said what I felt and I said, ‘Eagles fans everywhere, this one’s for you, let the celebration begin.’ That’s just what came out.

It was vintage Reese including the fans in his iconic call as the Eagles won their first NFL title in 57 years.
 
Reese appeared on the latest Eagle Eye podcast with Dave Zangaro and myself and spoke about how he prepared for the biggest moment of his professional career.
 
“There are broadcasters who will write out a paragraph to describe a championship if it occurs so they get it right,” he said. “We’ve been through this so many times - all of us - that I felt that I just wanted to let my emotion play out.”
 
Reese is a Philly guy, grew up in Overbrook Park, graduated from Overbrook High and Temple, spent all his life here.
 
Nobody connects with Eagles fans like Merrill.
 
And that synergy was fundamental in his impromptu call at the end of the Super Bowl.
 
“I want the Eagles to win the Super Bowl for the fans,” Reese said. “These are people, some of whom take second mortgages to buy their season tickets, people who spend their last dollars to buy their kids Carson Wentz jerseys for Christmas, these are the people who come out for wins and losses, ice, snow and rain, these are the people that I want that Super Bowl for. … That’s who deserved it more than anyone else. Best fans in the world. They’re great.”

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