Sproles trade doesn’t make much sense for Eagles, anybody

Sproles trade doesn’t make much sense for Eagles, anybody

Well, I hope everyone is happy. The Philadelphia Eagles finally added a coveted, overpaid, aging veteran during this free agency period, sending a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for running back/all-purpose weapon Darren Sproles.

This is a swap that would’ve been fresh and exciting maybe two years ago. Now, Sproles is about to turn 31 and is coming off one of the least productive seasons in his nine-year NFL career.

Sproles ran 53 times for just 220 yards (4.2 AVG) and two touchdowns in 2013, although the ground attack wasn't what he was known for. The '05 fourth-round pick still managed to reel in 71 passes, but for only 604 yards (8.5 AVG) and two touchdowns. His return numbers were as bad as they’ve ever been—21.3 on kickoffs, 6.7 on punts, zero scores. He also lost two fumbles.

The playoffs weren’t significantly better. In two games, Sproles carried seven times for 31 yards (4.4 AVG) and posted nine receptions for 63 (7.0 AVG) with zero TDs. Including the postseason, he broke 40 yards receiving just once in his final 11 games as a Saint.

Simply put, Sproles lost the explosion that once made him a special player. Look no further than his kick return to set up the Saints’ game-winning score in the Birds’ first-round playoff exit. If Sproles had that enormous of a hole to run through two years ago, nobody catches him, yet Cary Williams was able to corral him by the collar.

Sure, Sproles will catch a high number of balls out of the backfield, which is not an altogether useless skill, but so could a well-placed bucket.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, ‘So what, it was only a fifth-round pick.’ I’ll take the pick, thank you. That was Earl Wolff last year, who looks like a potential starter at safety.

In this year’s draft, it could be more. Thanks to a record number of underclassmen entering the selection process, this is a considerably deep draft. There is talent to be found in the fifth round—including at running back, potentially.

Wouldn’t you much rather have De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon for that pick, somebody who already knows Chip Kelly’s offense, isn’t in his 30s and would have more than one year remaining on his contract?

A fifth-round pick is far from guaranteed to be an NFL player, but neither will Sproles anymore soon enough.

Sproles is entering the final year of his deal and is scheduled to make $3.4 million.

Sproles’ presence could mean the front office is ready to act on a Bryce Brown trade this offseason. Brown didn’t appear to be a great fit for Kelly’s scheme, and if they get the pick back that was exchanged for Sproles, the whole series of moves is something of a wash.

Still, it cannot be understated that Sproles is 31, on the final year of his deal and fading. Brown will be 23, is under contract and has flashed Pro Bowl potential.

Is this trade the end of the world? No, in fact my guess is Sproles will be at least serviceable in his role in Kelly’s offense. With all that talent surrounding him in the league’s No. 2 offense, there will be opportunities to make plays.

Yet given the Eagles’ approach to the rest of this offseason so far—avoiding expensive, big-name players as deftly as LeSean McCoy eludes Louis Delmas in the snow—it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this. There’s been so much talk of a plan that relies on building through the draft, yet the front office is shipping off a valuable pick for somebody who probably won’t even be here a year from now.

Call me a curmudgeon or a hater, but this is a baffling trade. Maybe the Eagles can squeeze the last drops of football out of Sproles. Then again, it’s not like the offense even needed him. Weird move, giving up a draft pick for a beat-up rental at the club’s strongest position.

>> Eagles acquire Darren Sproles from Saints [CSN]

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings 

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason