Doug Pederson considers making Darren Sproles Eagles' primary back

Doug Pederson considers making Darren Sproles Eagles' primary back

Doug Pederson said Monday he’s considering replacing Ryan Mathews with 33-year-old Darren Sproles as the Eagles’ primary running back.

Pederson said he's evaluating how to proceed at the running back spot, which has been somewhat muddled for the Eagles this year.

Asked whether Sproles will be the Eagles’ featured back moving forward, Pederson sure sounded like he was leaning that way. Or at least seriously considering it.

“I can't say that 100 percent,” he said. “It's something we'll evaluate in these next couple of days and make that determination. 

“But until then, it's still Ryan Mathews and then Darren in those situations. And then we've got to get Wendell [Smallwood] and Kenjon [Barner] going a little bit, too.”

Mathews, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and a Pro Bowler in 2011, leads the Eagles with 71 carries and 272 rushing yards but got only four carries on eight snaps in the loss to Dallas on Sunday night. 

Sproles ran for 86 yards on 15 carries — his most carries since 2009 and his most rushing yards since 2011.

Sproles is now averaging 5.0 yards per carry and also has 22 catches for 227 yards.

Mathews has four rushing touchdowns this year but is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and is the only NFL running back with two fourth-quarter fumbles this year.

Pederson said his decision to elevate Sproles over Mathews was not related to Mathews’ fumbles.

“It wasn't a reaction,” he said. “I just think that Darren had the hot hand [Sunday]. Darren was playing outstanding, and he was doing some great things out there. So, just wanted to keep Darren in the game.”

Sproles is on pace for 105 carries, which would be a career high in his 10th NFL season.

No running back in NFL history has ever reached 100 carries for the first time at 33 or older.

With nine games to go, Sproles’ 81 touches are already the fifth most in Eagles history by a player 33 or older, and his 455 yards from scrimmage are third most.

Sproles is on pace for 1,040 yards from scrimmage this year. Only nine backs 33 or older have been over 1,000.

Pederson said he’s not concerned with overusing Sproles, who has had double-digit carries in only 10 of his 169 career games.

“I definitely think he's capable,” Pederson said. “I think you don't want to give him any more than what he got [Sunday], with his role on special teams and all that, too. 

“If you know Darren like I know Darren, the way he works during the week and the way he prepares himself and prepares his body and mind, he's definitely capable of handling that type of load.”

Smallwood is averaging 3.8 yards on 29 carries but fumbled on his only carry Sunday night. Barner is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 19 attempts but has only five carries since the bye.

The Eagles and Panthers are the only teams with four backs that have at least 19 carries.

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Next week, when the NFL convenes for its owners meetings in Phoenix, there will be 15 proposed rule changes under consideration by the competition committee. 

While the one proposed rule change would cut regular-season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes (see story), there are 14 others up for discussion. 

Of those 15, seven were submitted by NFL teams. And of those seven, four were submitted by the Eagles

Three of the four rule proposals from the Eagles are safety related. 

Here are the four from the Eagles, per the NFL: 

1. Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays. 

2. Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. 

3. Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet. 

4. Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

The first proposed rule would offer long snappers -- Jon Dorenbos included -- some extra protection. It would add this language to Article 6, Unnecessary Roughness: "When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap." 

The second proposed rule change is one of the proposals that has garnered the most attention. Basically, the league now allows players to leap over the line of scrimmage on kicks as long as they don't touch anyone. This new rule would completely outlaw the process of leaping over the line. 

It seems like this rule change is likely to happen. The NFLPA has previously asked for this rule to be changed. 

"So the inevitable is going to happen, and just hearing from the players association, Philly now proposing it is really in the best interest of the game," former Eagle and league football operations director Troy Vincent said on a conference call Thursday. 

The next rule does pretty much exactly what it says: it expands the area that is considered to be the "crown of the helmet." 

Here's the new language that would be added to Article 8, Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: "Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown or 'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of an opponent shall be considered a foul even if the initiating player's head moves after initial contact and the majority of contact occurs with the side or front of the helmet."

Finally, the last proposal isn't a safety one. It's about replay and is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. 

The reasoning given for this rule change on the proposal: "Provides coaches with a greater opportunity to correct subjective officiating errors, but excludes those fouls that have a minimal opportunity for reversal."

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT -- especially deep into the overtime -- is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession -- a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended -- Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."