In the event that McCoy misses time when the games start to count – if someone else is pressed into carrying the ball – the Eagles have indicated that Darren Sproles will be the next guy in line.
That runs counter to the popular narrative that emerged when the Eagles acquired the shifty running back from the Saints for a fifth-round pick during the offseason. In his eight-year career, Sproles has been mostly known as a receiving threat out of the backfield. During five years in San Diego and three more in New Orleans, Sproles never carried the ball more than 93 times in a single season. His highest rushing total was 603 yards with the Saints in 2011.
In fairness, he was mostly a backup with the Chargers, and he was employed primarily as a pass catcher with the Saints. Since 2009, Sproles has had at least 45 receptions each year. His receiving numbers spiked with New Orleans, where he hauled in 188 passes over the last three years.
While the Eagles expect him to be a good receiver in the offense, Chip Kelly insisted that Sproles is a running back first and capable of carrying the ball when needed. Pat Shurmur echoed that sentiment this week before practice at the NovaCareComplex
“We’ve said it all along. Darren can play running back on first, second and third down,” the offensive coordinator said. “We always try to use our players in a way where we maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses, no matter what the situation.”
If there’s a concern about Sproles carrying the ball, it’s what kind of impact the increased workload might have on his body, the story said. He’s been a pretty durable player in his career, missing a total of just six games in eight years. This very well may have everything to do with Chris Polk struggling to get on the field and still not being 100-percent. It would make much more sense to keep Sproles in his receiving role and use another back like Polk - ideally - on early downs should McCoy ever miss time.