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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Eagles injury update: Jason Peters had knee scoped, but ready to return to practice

Eagles injury update: Jason Peters had knee scoped, but ready to return to practice

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed on Wednesday morning that left tackle Jason Peters had arthroscopic surgery — a knee scope — during his three-week absence, but Peters will return to practice today. 

Peters, 37, missed the last three starts before the bye week with a knee injury. During that time, rookie Andre Dillard has filled in. 

“He’ll practice today and we’ll see where he’s at at the end of the week,” Pederson said. “He had that done to take care of that.” 

Whenever Peters is ready to return to game action, which could be this weekend against the Patriots, he will take back his starting gig. In six starts this season, Peters has played the entire game just twice. 

Here were a few other injury notes from Pederson on Wednesday: 

• Alshon Jeffery (ankle) is “day to day,” according to Pederson. Before the bye week, Jeffery left the game against the Bears early. He was not practicing on Wednesday. 

“It (the bye week) helped him,” Pederson said. “He’s still sore. A lot of guys are still sore. But it helped him and we’ll see. He’s kind of day to day.”

• Wednesday was the first time we’ve talked to Pederson since DeSean Jackson had core muscle surgery and went on IR. Pederson said the initial decision to avoid surgery was Jackson’s, as was the decision to have it at this time.  

Since the first question on Wednesday was about Jackson, Pederson’s took his time with a complete statement: 

In DeSean’s case, listen, there has been a lot of discussion with DeSean from the moment he came out of the Falcons came to the decision to play in the Bears game to surgery. And we talk a lot with the player, we talk a lot with our medical staff. We even talk to external sources, third-party people who have expertise in this area. I’m not the doctor, nor did I look at MRIs or X-rays or any of that. And DeSean, listen, DeSean busted his tail electively to try to get it fixed himself, to get it rehabbed and come back. He busted his tail, he was cleared to play, he felt good. And for me, as the coach, I listen to the player, I listed to what his body is telling him.

Everything was a go. And then he felt something in the game, pulled him out as I said after the game for precautionary reasons, we had it checked again and then we went down the road of surgery. Which, again, communication with him, the player again, it’s elective by the player. We support this decision, we support DeSean. He wants to be out there with his teammates. It’s unfortunate that this happened, but it did. Injuries are a part of this game and reoccurrence of injuries are a part of this game. With that being said, that’s where we’re at.

• Nigel Bradham (ankle) is improving but isn’t quite ready to practice, according to Pederson. He’ll likely be running on a side field. 

“He is feeling better,” Pederson said. “Optimistic that there’s a chance for this game. 

It is worth noting, though, that recently when Pederson expresses optimism but the player doesn’t practice, that player doesn’t play. We’ll have to see if Bradham practices at all this week. If he doesn’t, it’s more likely he’ll be back after this week. 

• Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot) is still on Injured Reserve and isn’t ready to practice yet. Pederson said LeBlanc is “still working.” 

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10 reasons to be optimistic about the Eagles

10 reasons to be optimistic about the Eagles

There’s a lot of negativity surrounding the Eagles right now, and some of it is understandable considering how disappointing the wide receivers have been, how badly the Eagles were blown out by the Vikings and Cowboys and how high expectations were coming into the season.

Still, despite it all, the Eagles are 5-4, tied for first in the NFC East, winners of four of their last six games, and they have a 62 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Sometimes we all have to be reminded that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.

There’s two ways to do that: 1) Stay off Twitter for a while, and 2) Read this list of 10 reasons for Eagles fans to be optimistic going into the final seven games of the season.

1. DOUG: He has his quirks, but the bottom line is Doug Pederson is 38-24 as an NFL head coach, and that .613 winning percentage is 4th-highest among the 32 active NFL head coaches. The Eagles have the 8th-best record in the NFL since Pederson took over as head coach in 2016. Bottom line is the Eagles are in good hands. Pederson knows how to get the most out of his players, and he knows how to win.

2. CARSON: It’s mindblowing that there are still fans out there blabbering about Nick Foles. Dude’s a folk hero around here but it’s time to move on. It’s impossible to argue with the job Wentz has done this year with minimal contributions from his wide receivers. How do you have 15 TDs and 4 INTs without any wide receivers consistently contributing? Over the last three years, Wentz has started 33 games and had two bad ones – Saints last year, Falcons this year. In his 31 other games, he’s got 68 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He’s 21-12 since opening day 2017, the 7th-best winning percentage among NFL. As long as he’s the Eagles’ quarterback, they have a chance to win every game.

3. THE LINC: The Eagles have the second-best home record in the NFL since 2016 at 23-7 for a .767 winning percentage. Of those 30 games, there’s only been one the Eagles lost by more than a touchdown – that was a 14-point loss to the Packers in 2016, and even that was a four-point game in the fourth quarter. The Eagles are in every game at the Linc, where they play four of their next six games.

4. FLETCHER: One of the most encouraging developments of the past couple weeks has been Fletcher Cox really returning to form. Cox is finally healthy after that foot injury he suffered in the playoff loss to the Saints, and having their one-man wrecking crew back at full strength is going to be huge down the stretch.

5. THE CORNERBACKS: Not that long ago the Eagles were running Craig James, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Orlando Scandrick out there. Now Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox are all back, and Cre’Von LeBlanc will be back soon.  That’s a monumental upgrade.

6. JORDAN MATTHEWS: He became their best wide receiver when he walked through the front door of the NovaCare Complex. Hey, I don’t know how much Matthews will help, but he’s a solid pro, he’s got great chemistry with Wentz, and he knows the offense. He instantly makes this a better wide receiving crew.

7. THE RUNNING GAME: Over the past seven weeks, the Eagles are averaging 140 rushing yards per game, 6th-best in the league. The Miles Sanders-Jordan Howard tandem behind this massive o-line has proven to be formidable. It’s not the offense the Eagles planned on, but their running game has developed into one of the league’s best.

8. PASS PRESSURE: After recording an NFL-low three sacks the first four games of the season, the Eagles have 22 in their last five games, second-most in the NFL. Brandon Graham has come to life, Derek Barnett is showing flashes and Cox has been his old dominating self. The Eagles are 20-7 under Pederson when they get three or more sacks. They’re 18-17 when they don’t.

9. THE COWBOYS: The Eagles’ only competition in the division is a team that lost to the Jets. That’s not only embarrassing, it’s huge for tiebreaker purposes. The Eagles have wins over the Packers and Jets, and the Cowboys lost to both. If the Eagles and Cowboys split the season series and both finish with 4-2 division records, the team with a better record in common opponents wins the division. If the Eagles take care of business, that will be them.

10. THE SCHEDULE: Which leads us to the schedule. Even if the Eagles lose to the Patriots and Seahawks, as long as they beat the Cowboys at home they’ll reach 10-6 by beating the 2-8 Giants twice and the 1-8 Redskins and 2-7 Dolphins. In that case, the only way the Eagles lose the division is if the Cowboys go 6-1 in all their other games. That is not going to happen.

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