Eagles RB Darren Sproles had just 40 receptions last season, which was his fewest number of catches since 2008. Coach Chip Kelly said in the offseason that he wants to get Sproles more involved in the passing game this season. “We would like to get him the ball steadily and consistently,’’ OC Pat Shurmur said. “He’s a unique player. He’s as good as any receiver you have. And then you can hand him the football. We just need to make sure we get him the ball, and we have a plan to do that. We’ve got to find that smooth mix between (DeMarco Murray), Darren and (Ryan Mathews). And nothing says we can’t put all three of them in there at the same time, which would be kind of cool.’’
On just 8.0 touches per game, Sproles was the #12 PPR running back through the first six weeks. From Week 9 on, he averaged 5.4 touches and was the #26 RB in PPR formats during that span. The news this offseason has been mixed for Sproles. The team traded away LeSean McCoy, but replaced him with both Murray and Mathews, so Sproles’s carries seem unlikely to increase. There have been reports of Sproles lining up at receiver in minicamp and OTAs, and if that carries into the regular season, he has a chance to reemerge as a viable PPR back in his 10th year.
Darren Sproles made some big plays last season, his first year in Philadelphia. But he also disappeared at times, and had five or fewer offensive touches in most of the games he played.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly says that won’t happen again.
“It’s year two for him, so I think he feels really comfortable in terms of what our running backs are doing,” Kelly said, via Philly.com. “So we are just kind of cross-training him like we do some other guys in terms of how do we get our best players on the field and put them in different situations.”
Sproles said he’ll line up at receiver this season, and not just in the slot.
“We’re just trying to get more stuff for me to do,” Sproles said. “We’re going to get me out wide and stuff like that.”
Kelly is a creative offensive coach, and Sproles has the kind of talent Kelly can use in a variety of positions. The 32-year-old Sproles is at an age when most running backs are slowing down, but don’t be surprised if he has a bigger season in Year 2 with the Eagles.
Kelly said that he’s giving Sproles more practice time with the wide receivers so that Sproles will be ready to play there even if he doesn’t get a lot of snaps at running back, where he’s third on the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, the story said. There were times last year when Sproles didn't even get a target in a game, so it looks like the Birds realize he needs to touch the ball more. Now the question is are there enough balls to go around with Murray and Mathews at the position. Sproles could find his way on the field more lined up at WR, a position where the Eagles don't have a ton of experience right now anyway.
Even if Ryan Mathews was No. 2 to DeMarco Murray's No. 1, the distribution of carries is unlikely to be as disparate as it was with LeSean McCoy over the previous two seasons. McCoy logged more than 64 percent of the Eagles' carries. The closest a backup got to him was Bryce Brown's 15 percent of rushes in 2013.
Chip Kelly hasn't put a number on how he'll divvy up the touches. Darren Sproles is also part of the equation. But a 50-30-15 split among the top three running backs would be an early guess.
We currently project a 57-27-8 split among Murray, Mathews and Sproles, and it results in a lower-than-average ranking of Murray, at least in PPR formats. If it is indeed a 50-30-15 split, then Murray probably won't provide good return at his current draft position.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 4:19pm
Eagles camp notes from Monday:
- Jordan Matthews gets my “Camper of the Day” award. Practices that limit contact tend to highlight the passing game and those mostly involved, but Matthews had a standout performance by any estimate. He did most of his damage from the slot. I think we’ll see more of Matthews on the outside than we did last year, but why limit his effectiveness when there probably isn’t another option as comparable on the roster? Most of his catches came from Sam Bradford and there were a variety.
- DeMarco Murray was back in action after sitting out team and 7-on-7 drills yesterday. He said it was a coach’s decision to limit his action on the first day of camp. I’m not sure why he would need to rest after a six-week layoff, but he looked fine on Monday. He didn’t seem to go 100 percent when he was involved, but after last season when he logged almost 500 touches, it doesn’t seem necessary for Murray to push himself this early.
- A day after taking all of the first team repetitions at quarterback, Bradford was under center for the majority. He looked a little more comfortable on Day 2.
- Mark Sanchez took his first series of snaps with the first team. I’m not sure that constitutes as a quarterback competition, but it’s a start. His best toss during the series was downfield to Huff on a comeback route. Working with the second team, Sanchez knew who would butter his bread. He kept going to Nelson Agholor on the outside. The rookie wide receiver continued to get the best of rookie corner Eric Rowe. Contact at the line is limited, so I wouldn’t make any assumptions about Rowe just yet, but Agholor has looked more than competent.
- Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow split third team reps again. If Kelly wants a pure quarterback at the third spot, the job is clearly Barkley’s. But if he wants someone that has an “X” factor or can be effective in zone read plays, then Tebow would seem to have the advantage.
Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was a virtual non-participant on Day 1 of training camp Sunday at the NovaCare Complex.
Among the Eagles' prized offseason additions, last season's rushing champion stretched with his teammates and took part in individual drills at the start of Sunday's practice but was limited to the role of a sideline spectator the rest of the day.
Murray did not take a single snap in seven-on-seven drills and was absent from every rep in full-team 11-on-11 drills as well.
"Who knows with him," An Eagles team source who requested anonymity said of Murray's conspicuous absence.
An Eagles team spokesman told NJ Advance Media that he was unaware of any injury to the running back.
Murray did fulfill his lone media obligation of the day -- a one-on-one interview with a national media outlet -- but did not speak to reporters. He is scheduled to talk at the podium after Monday's practice.
Kind of sounds like a strange situation with the comment from the unnamed source. We will continue to monitor the situation.
Brandin Cooks should emerge as the Saints’ No. 1 receiver on deep throws and short stuff like screens and end-arounds, while C.J. Spiller should catch 60-plus passes out of the backfield in the mold of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush.
We project Spiller to catch 68 passes, so this prediction falls right in line with what we're expecting from Spiller in 2015. Be sure to read Sr. Editor John Paulsen's case for Spiller in New Orleans.
RB DeMarco Murray will not be counted on to carry the full load for the Eagles like he did in Dallas, where he accounted for 77 percent of the team's total carries, outpacing the second-leading rusher, Randle, by 341 carries. The presence of Ryan Mathews, himself a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, and Darren Sproles should mitigate the workload placed on Murray.
Last year, among the three top running backs, the split on carries went 75 percent to McCoy, 14 percent to Sproles and 11 percent to Polk. It's hard not to envision HC Chip Kelly opting to creep those percentages closer to something like 55-60 percent for Murray, 25-30 percent for Mathews and the remaining touches for Sproles.
Conveniently enough, we project Murray for 58.1% of the touches, with Mathews checking in at 27.1% and Sproles getting the remaining 14.8%. The article also notes that among the seven running backs who carried the ball at least 380 times in a season (and also played the following year), only two played more than 12 games, and the overall YPC dropped from 4.60 YPC in the 380-plus carry seasons to 3.60 YPC the following year. Four of the seven running backs played fewer than nine games. It remains to be seen if Kelly's superior sports science program can help Murray buck this trend.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
The reality is he hasn’t had a productive season since 2012, when he caught 66 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns, but the Eagles would sign right now for anything close to those numbers.
Think about this: On an awful Browns team with quarterback havoc, Austin was on pace for 63 catches, 757 yards and three TDs before lacerating his kidney in a freak injury. Last year, Riley Cooper caught 55 passes for 577 yards and three TDs.
If sports science can keep him healthy, and with some stability at QB in Chip Kelly’s offense, Austin could at very least be more productive than Cooper and is probably more reliable than Josh Huff, who still has to prove he can be consistent and values the football.
Austin will have to battle some young guys drafted by Chip Kelly in order to get on the field, but like the piece mentions, Austin is pretty much the veteran presence at the position. With pass-catching RB Darren Sproles and emerging TE Zach Ertz also around, there are going to be a lot of targets to get the ball to, but Austin could be a guy who makes a move in camp and jumps on the fantasy radar, so he's perhaps worth keeping an eye on in this fast-paced offense.
He may not see the same type of usage on the ground, but he is going to fill a role that is very similar to the one that Darren Sproles had during his tenure with the Saints. As Robert Cobb of TheInscriberMag.com stated, Spiller’s ability to be a receiver out of the backfield is going to be a major help for the Saints’ offense.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton loved what Sproles brought to the field, and it was obvious that they missed him last season after trading him. Signing a player like Spiller shows exactly how much the Saints wanted to bring back a player who is similar to Sproles.
Unfortunately, Spiller has struggled with quite a few injury issues throughout his career. He has only played an entire season as a workhorse in one of his five NFL seasons, and he was an absolute star in that season, the story said. Other than that, Spiller has been inconsistent at best or simply wasn’t used much. Spiller should help to fill a void left by TE Jimmy Graham, so Spiller's value should come in PPR leagues as Mark Ingram is expected to get a bulk of the carries. We forecast Spiller for 68 catches, the most among RBs.
"He has great hands, man," Sproles said last week, via CSN Philly. "His hands and his route running are just great, really. He's about to be a superstar."
Ertz has earned praise from coaches and teammates for his impressive showing in OTAs and minicamp.
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Ertz played mostly (73%) on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- first DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint.
Eagles writer Dave Spadaro: If I had to say one player who stood out, it would be running back DeMarco Murray. He is much more fluid as a pass catcher than I thought, and he's in tremendous shape and just looks like he "fits" into this offensive structure perfectly. The backfield is a must-see group with all of that talent.
Murray had a career year in his fourth season, racking up 2,261 total yards and 13 touchdowns on 449 touches. He should get plenty of work in Philadelphia, though the signing of Ryan Mathews and the presence of Darren Sproles make it very unlikely that he’ll approach 450 touches in 2015. LeSean McCoy averaged 353 touches over the past two seasons, so that’s probably Murray’s ceiling if everyone stays healthy. He’ll hold low-end RB1 value, though the presence of Mathews and Sproles may make even that a stretch. Chip Kelly did not utilize McCoy much as a receiver last season.
Saints beat writer Mike Triplett on the fantasy value of the team's running backs:
It's pretty close between C.J. Spiller and Mark Ingram. I'm really excited to see what Spiller will do in this offense as both a runner and receiver - mostly because you can tell that Sean Payton is really excited about the possibilities when he talks about Spiller. I think Spiller and Ingram will be very close in total yards from scrimmage - right around 1,000 yards each, with Ingram gaining almost all of those yards as a rusher and Spiller having a pretty even split between rushing and receiving yards. Spiller will get a boost in point-per-reception leagues. Ingram will probably score more TDs, though.
Senior Editor laid out The Case for C.J. Spiller earlier in the offseason. It's not inconceivable that Spiller posts top 5 PPR numbers a la Darren Sproles in 2011. Ingram should get his share of touches, though a healthy Khriy Robinson is a concern. Spiller would be our choice for PPR formats, with Ingram coming in higher in standard leagues.
We've updated our projections for Johnson since he's generating so much buzz in the passing game. We now have him for 45 catches for 294 yards, which makes him a low-end RB3 in PPR formats. He has upside from there if he turns into a Darren Sproles/Danny Woodhead type. The Browns didn't throw the ball much to their running backs last season, but there's a new offensive coordinator in town, so anything could happen. His ADP is currently in the 8th round.
Eagles beat writer was asked to predict how the team will divvy up the carries:
Eagles running backs had about 26 carries per game last season. Overall, the team had 474 rushing attempts, which ranked seventh in the NFL. I think there's a good chance those numbers could increase this season. Running backs coach Duce Staley has already said the offense wants to regain its identity, and that identity is a run-based spread.
My guess (and I reserve the right to change this in August!) is that Murray would get around 17 carries per game; Mathews would get seven; and Darren Sproles would get two.
Assuming Murray stays healthy the whole season, that would translate to 272 carries. Only four running backs in the NFL had more than that last season.
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