In all, Darren Sproles carried 12 times for 40 yards on Monday night, while Ryan Mathews was limited to nine attempts for 32 yards. Mathews also had an attempt erased due to a penalty, but regardless, it was odd seeing the change-of-pace back get more work than the bellcow.
It was even stranger given the circumstances. Chicago's defense is far more stout against the run this season, so it was tough sledding for Eagles rushers. Again, that's where it would seemingly make sense for a bigger back like Mathews to carry the load, because he can fight for the hard yards and wear opponents down.
Mathews is nursing an ankle injury which may have played into the decision. Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood each had two rushes in Week 2 after Barner had an impressive Week 1. The story added the Eagles were trying to spread the Bears out, a strategy that did make some sense. Perhaps the Birds are taking notes from the Patriots use of RBs and we're going to see the snaps for all four backs vary depending on the opponent. Keep in mind Mathews did score two TDs and is still considered the main back of the offense. He had 22 carries in Week 1.
Darren Sproles figures to earn the two-year, $8 million contract extension the Eagles gave him. How can he expand his role, which saw him record 55 catches out of the backfield in 2015? Check out the red-zone creativity, not unlike what first-year Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich did with Danny Woodhead in San Diego. Woodhead had eight catches in 2015 under Reich and was a primary outlet in the red zone for Philip Rivers. Sproles could get similar treatment in Philadelphia with rookie Carson Wentz.
We've been discussing the Sproles/Woodhead comparison since the Eagles said a few weeks ago that they were scheming ways to get Sproles the ball. Last year, under Reich, Woodhead led all running backs in red zone targets (17). Sproles is shaping up as an excellent value in the late rounds, especially in PPR formats.
Expect Darren Sproles to be featured in the passing game this season. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said that every week during game planning meetings, they will ask, "How can we get this guy the football?"
"Sproles is the original, right?" Reich said. "He's the original guy. He's the prototype. Right from the start, I remember coming in some of the immediate talk was the excitement of how we get to use a guy like Darren Sproles. . . . In Doug's offense, they've done that in the past. We'll continue to mix in some other things that we've all done, that our staff has done to kind of isolate backs and get good matchups."
As the article mentioned, Reich's history with Danny Woodhead shows that he knows how to get a pass-catching back the football. After Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, the Eagles are looking for playmakers in the passing game, and Sproles can certainly help in that area. He has finished in the top 30 in seven straight seasons in PPR formats.
Eagles beat writer Reuben Frank (CSN Philly):
I don’t care if I write this every week, I really like Kenjon Barner. He just looks like a football player to me. Sometimes you see guys put up big numbers in the preseason but you don’t really expect them to ever carry it over into the regular season. Barner hasn’t done anything since he got here in 2014 to make me think he can’t play in this league. He runs hard, slashes through traffic, has a terrific feel for the defenders around him and is tough enough to run through guys (rushing stats: 7 for 35 vs. the Bucs, 6 for 41 Thursday night). He’s explosive in the return game, picks up the blitz, getting better as a receiver. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history. We all know Darren Sproles is a gifted player but not equipped for double-digit carries. We haven’t even seen Wendell Smallwood play yet. It’s pretty clear Barner has to be this team’s No. 2 back. Not only that, he needs to have a role on offense as well.
The Eagles’ running backs and wide receivers won’t be near any lists for the top groups in the NFL, but their offensive hopes go beyond those skill positions. Look for the tight ends to fill a major role in the offense, with Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton all a part of the passing game.
“Tight end is a strength of this roster, this offensive unit,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “If you look at Doug’s [Pederson] system and what they did in Kansas City with their tight ends and how we’ll utilize them here, it’ll be very consistent with that, and we’ve got the players to do it. We can mix it up. They’re all real good, smart route runners – every one of them. So, we expect really good production from that unit.”
Ertz will be the biggest contributor of the group. Ertz caught 75 passes last season for 854 yards and two touchdowns. The receiving yards and touchdowns could see a jump this season. There were five tight ends who led their teams in receiving yards last season. Ertz might join that group that season. Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Darren Sproles will all be big parts of the passing offense, but the best mismatch could come from Ertz.
We had a story Sunday on the Eagles looking to involve Trey Burton in the offense, someone who has been a relative unknown with only two years in the league and three career catches. Expect him to split out wide and/or come out of the backfield. Celek is more than a capable receiver, but the safe fantasy bet seems to be Ertz here, and the story talked a lot about his skills.
Eagles running back Ryan Mathews was a limited participant in Friday's full contact practice but returned to a full workload during Saturday's 10-10-10 session, much to the delight of offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
Mathews has been consistently working with the second team offense since Darren Sproles first reported to Mandatory minicamp this spring, but that doesn't mean he won't have a significant impact on the offense this season.
"Having Ryan back today, and I know it's only 10-10-10," Reich said following Saturday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "You guys saw it too, he looks explosive out there. He just looked explosive. He was quick. He was seeing things."
A good sign for Mathews and potential owners. Mathews would be a perfect guy to wait on using the Zero-RB strategy, however his injury history is a real concern. He looks like the back who will get a majority of carries for the Birds as long as he can stay on the field. He's ranked 21st on our list with an ADP of the fifth round. In the 24 games over the past three seasons where Mathews has at least 10 carries, he has averaged 87 total yards and 0.50 TD, or 13.4 PPR points per game. Those are solid RB1 numbers.
Now, the question is can a 33-year-old running back who is listed at 5-6, 190 pounds be a team's featured back?
"I just think he's a freakish athlete. Going into it right now, I'm not going to limit him. I want to see how much I can give him and see how much he can handle. Then we'll kind of go from there,'' HC Doug Pederson said.
While the Eagles seem to think he can carry the load, at least publicly, the story went on to produce some numbers that show he probably can't. Over his career, the more carries he got, the lower his YPC average was. He had the most carries in his career in 2009 for the Chargers (93) and averaged just 3.7 YPC. Last season he carried 83 times (third most) and had a 3.8 YPC. In 2014 he carried just 57 times with a YPC of 5.8, second best of his career. Those around the team seem to think rookie Wendell Smallwood would get more carries should Mathews be forced to miss extended time.
The Eagles signed Darren Sproles to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Friday morning. Ian Rapoport first reported the deal is worth $4.5 million, and that the two sides have been working on it since he reported for mandatory minicamp in June.
“Being one of the oldest guys on the team, to know you’re going to be here a little bit longer, that’s a pretty good feeling,” Sproles, who is now under contract through 2017, told the Eagles’ website.
When Sproles skipped OTAs during May, there were rumors about the Eagles potentially trading the running back.
Sproles' role as a RB probably won't have a major fantasy impact outside of deeper PPR leagues, however that remains to be seen as the team doesn't really have an accomplished back behind Ryan Mathews. Sproles has provided a spark in the punt return game, including two TDs last year, so he's likely to remain in that role.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 12:43pm
Darren Sproles missed the voluntary portion of Eagles offseason workouts. The coaching staff genuinely didn't seem to to be too concerned about that. Unlike Ryan Mathews, Sproles is a very good fit for an offense that plans on using its backs heavily in the passing game.
Expect Sproles to used more creatively in Pederson's offense than he was in Chip Kelly's, but likely only for one year, as Sproles is 33 years old and in the final year of his deal.
Sproles is always worth a look in the later rounds of PPR drafts. It sounds as if he'll have a sizable role in the offense.
Owner Jim Irsay had been openly pining for an elusive Darren Sproles-style satellite back. That's the role offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski dangled in front of Ferguson in a post-draft recruiting pitch.
With the underwhelming quartet of Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman, Trey Williams and Tyler Varga behind 33-year-old starter Frank Gore, Ferguson used offseason practices to climb the depth chart and make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
"It's just in shorts, but he looks really good," coach Chuck Pagano said last week as the Colts wrapped up minicamp. "He's smart. He picks things up in a hurry. He's very, very athletic. He's a great receiver out of the back field. We can split him wide, we can displace him formationally. He's a mismatch out in space. He's got juice. He can go. He's got great vision."
We like Frank Gore as a value pick this year, but Ferguson could surprise in PPR formats even if Gore stays healthy.
It looks like we’re going to have another running-back-by-committee season in Philadelphia. While Ryan Mathews got the bulk of first-team reps this spring, he also shared them with Kenjon Barner and Darren Sproles. The team also has fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood.
“Well, you go in thinking that one guy can handle the load,” HC Doug Pederson said. “If that's Ryan, he can handle all the stuff and the pounding. But with the guys we have, with the depth we have at that position, Darren is obviously a big part of that and now with Wendell [RB Wendell Smallwood] coming on, I think it could be a little bit of a running back by committee.”
This doesn't worry us, since Mathews appears to be one of the better values at the running back position even with a conservative projection of touches. He's ranked 17th in standard and 21st in PPR formats, and that's only with 240 touches, which is very reasonable as the lead back in a committee. Mathews' career production (4.5 YPC) and 2015 production (5.0 YPC) allow him to generate yards on fewer touches.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly has finally begun to realize that DeMarco Murray, his prized free-agent signing, is not a good fit in his offense. But Kelly is still giving Murray more touches than his production warrants.
In Sunday’s win over the Bills, Murray actually got plenty of touches: Murray had 11 carries for 34 yards, plus two catches for three yards.
That continues a trend that has been going on all season: Murray is getting the ball a lot and not doing much of anything with it. Murray has 174 carries for 603 yards this season, an average of 3.5 yards a carry. Murray’s average is by far the worst on the team: Ryan Mathews averages 5.3 yards per carry with 465 yards on 87 carries, Kenjon Barner averages 4.6 yards a carry with 106 yards on 23 carries and Darren Sproles averages 4.0 yards a carry with 275 yards on 69 carries.
There were reports that Murray was going to be inactive or reduced to the team's RB4 in Week 14, but that wasn't the case. Instead, it was worse for fantasy owners as Mathews, Murray and Sproles seemed to split up the workload. This is going to be a tricky situation going forward. Mathews is probably the best fit for a full workload and has often produced with more with less touches than he got this week. But without a full workload, he'll still have some risks going forward.
His previous low came in Week 4, when he had just 25 snaps against the Washington Redskins, but the game flow dictated that one. With the Eagles falling behind, they turned to their passing down backs. In Week 13, Murray's low snap count was part of the plan.
Head coach Chip Kelly explained that based on the matchup, it made more sense to use his smaller running backs -- Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. However, he also added that Sproles' ability to create positive plays consistently helped him stay on the field throughout the game.
This will be interesting to watch the rest of the season. The Eagles made some changes coming into this game after three-straight losses, and it was clear the speed of Sproles and Barner worked better on the sweep plays the team loves to run. The Birds also scored three special team and defensive TDs which limited the offensive snaps, but it's been pretty clear this season Murray isn't a great fit in this offense. Also keep in mind Ryan Mathews missed this game with a concussion and has had more success than Murray this season. The return of Mathews could also keep Murray's snap total low going forward.
Friday, December 4, 2015, 6:28pm
Thursday, December 3, 2015, 5:56pm
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