Darren Sproles is a RB, is still likely to finish ’14 with more receptions than rushing attempts

Darren Sproles is a RB, is still likely to finish ’14 with more receptions than rushing attempts

A few weeks back, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly stressed that Darren Sproles is, in fact, a running back, and not a wide receiver. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur reiterated Kelly’s stance when reporters were allowed to meet with assistant coaches on Monday. The funny thing is we probably don’t need these offensive masterminds to explain the difference between a back and a receiver. Sproles is listed as a running back on the roster. That’s good enough for me. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to fall into the trap of believing the Eagles will have Sproles “run the ball first, catch it second,” as the headline at ProFootballTalk summarized Shurmur’s comments. That’s really not what he or Kelly said at all. All either coach did was reaffirm Sproles plays running back, and therefore will line up in the backfield with some regularity. Nowhere in Les Bowen’s reporting of Shurmur’s words for the Daily News does it say anything about run/pass distribution. Read for yourself.

"I think he's an outstanding running back, that's what he is," Shurmur said yesterday, when asked about Sproles. This was the first time since the 2013 season ended that Eagles coaches other than Kelly have been allowed to talk to reporters. "There's a lot of conversation about the fact we brought him in to play receiver. He's played at a very high level for 10 years. He brings outstanding leadership. He's one of our hardest workers. The first training session he went out there and he finishes as well as you see from any player, not to mention he can help us running the ball and catching it. That's a very strong addition for us." "He's a running back, so we're going to line him up in the backfield," Shurmur said, before conceding, "There is a portion of our offense where we can be in empty, or we can motion him out."

The Eagles can spin the acquisition of Sproles however they like. The simple fact of the matter he hasn’t been used as a conventional running back in years, and any attempt to start doing so now would probably be a bad idea. At best, the distribution should wind up roughly 50/50. In three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Sproles carried the ball 188 times compared to 232 receptions. He only ever finished with more rushing attempts in a campaign his first year there—one more rushing attempt, to be exact. In his final year with the San Diego Chargers, the team that drafted Sproles in 2005, Sproles also had more catches than carries. That dual-threat is a huge part of what makes Sproles such a dangerous weapon. To think that now all of a sudden, as this 5’6”, 190-pound back gets set to turn 31 in a matter of days, he’s going to start making his living between the tackles is absurd. Even the very premise that somebody other than LeSean McCoy is going to rack up a lot of rushing attempts in Philadelphia sounds illogical. All of which begs the question what is behind this concerted effort by the Eagles to remind the world that Sproles is a runner? Another huge factor that goes into making Sproles so successful is the matchup problems he creates when he’s on the field. Kelly and Shurmur certainly have a vested interest in making defenses believe Sproles is every bit as likely to carry the ball as he is to run a route, because it could go a long way in determining what personnel the opponent puts on the field. Sproles’ ability to take a handoff is what compels a defense to keep an extra linebacker on the field. That’s Sproles mark. So now when he does go into a route, or he does line up in the slot, and the bigger, stronger linebacker is trying to cover the far more agile and shifty receiver running back, the quarterback can exploit that matchup. Quite a bit, as Drew Brees demonstrated in New Orleans the past three seasons. Sproles racked up 232 receptions for 1,981 yards and 16 touchdowns as a member of the Saints. As Bowen alludes to in his story, Kelly and now Shurmur are essentially attempting to walk back the head coach’s comments made back in March about how Sproles will help the Birds offense against man defense. If the defense assumes Sproles is only out there to catch passes, the opponent may opt to put an additional defensive back on the field instead. Teams may do that anyway, which is where the flexibility of Kelly’s offense can really come into play. If the defense goes nickel or dime personnel because Sproles is on the field, the Eagles will likely pound the ball down their throats. So, yes, Sproles is a running back. He’ll certainly carry the ball from time to time, probably effectively. There's even a slight possibility he'll finish '14 with marginally more carries than receptions. However, if the last several years’ worth of historical data serves as any indication—and really, just plain common sense—it all suggests Sproles will have a much greater impact in the passing attack than on the ground.

Eagles Better or Worse 2016: Cornerbacks

Eagles Better or Worse 2016: Cornerbacks

Sad as it is to say of a defense that ranked dead last against the pass, but the Eagles probably fielded their best cornerback tandem in years in 2015. Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll were an upgrade over Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, which is nothing to hang their hats on, although they weren't as bad as the numbers suggest either. Second-round draft pick Eric Rowe showed a lot of promise down the stretch as well.

Still, for the fourth time in six years, the Eagles may once again start the season with a brand new pairing at corner. Maxwell and his absurd contract were shipped out, and while Carroll and Rowe both return, they face stiff competition. The club signed Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, both of whom played under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz with the Bills and seem to be penciled in at the top of the depth chart. And while Brooks' spot might be up for grabs, McKelvin might have his locked down.

All of which indicates there's at least one new face at corner this year, and that's before we touch on the slot. Change probably isn't a bad thing considering the Eagles' ranking through the air has nowhere to go but up. Competition is certainly welcome as well. That being said, Maxwell may have been an overpriced diva, but did the Eagles effectively replace his talent?

BETTER
Nickel cornerback

This is definitely debatable, as Malcolm Jenkins turned out to be exceptional in the slot for the Eagles last season. The problem is he's actually a safety, and the result of moving him to corner was Chris Maragos or Ed Reynolds entering the game behind him. The trade-off was worth it at the time, but far from ideal.

For 2016, it appears a third cornerback will play on the nickel package instead. As of right now, the smart money is on seventh-round rookie Jalen Mills, who was getting a lot of reps and really impressed during OTAs, although the Eagles have other options. It looks like Leodis McKelvin will earn one of the starting jobs, but could move inside in passing situations. Fellow free-agent addition Ron Brooks knows the system and could get a shot at the role as well. Even Nolan Carroll, while he's not seen much action in the slot, he probably has to play somewhere if he's going to make the team.

Are any of these alternatives to Jenkins going to be an upgrade? That might be going out on a limb. But is slight decline at nickel corner worth the significant drop-off the Eagles suffered at safety as a result? On balance, this looks like a better situation overall.

WORSE
Size

Say what you want about Maxwell, but what the Eagles are getting in scheme fit with McKelvin, they are sacrificing in size. Part of Maxwell's appeal was his 6'3" frame in a league where the wide receivers increasingly resemble NBA basketball players, and while he disappointed with his attitude and lack of physicality, he matched up well when healthy and in the right mind frame.

McKelvin is no slouch. Selected 11th overall in 2008, he's an impressive athlete with a nose for the football. He's also 5'10", will be 31 on opening day and has had trouble keeping a starting job for much of his career. Maxwell didn't live up to the huge contract he signed last offseason, but wasn't as bad as his press either. None of which to say the Eagles won't be better off with McKelvin when everything is said and done, and for a fraction of the cost. When he's giving up five inches to Dez Bryant, on the other hand, we'll find out a lot.

THE SAME
Eric Rowe, Nolan Carroll

Ron Brooks has started all of three games in four NFL seasons, so as much as he may know the scheme, it would still be an upset if he beat out either Carroll or Rowe for a starting job. And while Carroll and Rowe may not be the same as players, they're the closest thing the Eagles have to a known quantity beyond McKelvin.

Carroll is coming off of a devastating ankle injury that might help explain why there weren't many offers in free agency this offseason. Even the Eagles only gave him a one-year, non-guaranteed contract, so the seventh-year veteran must prove he's healthy. To his credit, Carroll was actually having a very solid year in 2015 prior to getting hurt, and you couldn't blame him for feeling as though this is his job to lose.

After a strong finish to last season, the assumption coming into camp was Rowe would be one of the starters. Last year's second-round pick was a bit of an afterthought during OTAs though, so there's some question what his role will be with the Eagles going forward. Then again, the simple fact is Rowe may be the most talented corner on the roster at this point, so you have to assume he has a good shot to not only earn the job in training camp, but improve upon his quality play last year. The name on the back of the jersey may be the same, but the hope remains he's still getting better.

THE UNKNOWN
Pretty much everything

This is the position we know the absolute least about for the Eagles coming into camp. Aside from McKelvin, we don't know who the other starter is, let alone the front-runner. We can't say for sure who will be in the slot, only that he'll probably be a cornerback. We don't know who the primary backups will be. We don't even know if Carroll will be on the roster until everything is said and done. As to how it all goes down, your guess is as good as ours.

BETTER OR WORSE?

With so much uncertainty, typically it might be difficult to declare whether the unit is any better or worse. When it's a last-place secondary you're talking about, that's a little different. Maxwell honestly isn't a bad corner, but McKelvin probably isn't a dramatic downgrade. Beyond that, all the Eagles did was add and retain talent. Mills could contribute immediately, Brooks is an experienced backup, Carroll can play as long as he's healthy and Rowe is another year older. If they can't piece together a dependable duo and trio out of this group, they might never get this thing right. BETTER

Previously: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide ReceiversTight Ends, Offensive LineDefensive Line, LinebackersSafeties, Special Teams

Watch: The Phillie Phanatic befriends an Ewok on Star Wars night

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Watch: The Phillie Phanatic befriends an Ewok on Star Wars night

The Phillies played like Womp rat butt on Thursday night but it was Star Wars night at the ballpark so that was fun.

One notable addition to the usual cast of Star Wars characters to invade Citizens Bank Park was a nice old Ewok who the Phillie Phanatic seemed to be a pretty big fan of.

They hugged, high-fived, and probably talked about the Dark Side invading Philadelphia next week with the arrival of Hillary and co.

 

Indego Bike Share: How does it work? Does it suck? Will you die?

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RideIndego Instagram

Indego Bike Share: How does it work? Does it suck? Will you die?

First off, can we all please agree that people who ride bicycles with toe clips and bike shoes and bike gloves and spandex are by far the biggest weirdos on the planet? It’s like, dude, you’re riding up Spruce Street, not the Pyrenees. My six-year-old cousin Wesley rides his bike while eating meatballs. You don’t need special socks. 

Regardless, riding a bike is still cool. Or at least, hipsters think it’s cool. I guess it’s cool. I don’t know. I mean, it’s a friggin’ bike. But now that more and more people wanna ride bikes, the city has introduced a new bike-sharing bike-share thingie that lets more people ride bikes.

You’ve seen the Indego bike-share thingie. You’ve seen the bikes. They’re all over. They’re blue. They’re dorky. They have little front baskets and cute side pouches and KICKSTANDS, awesome kickstands. And they get you from point A to point Z, which is sort of the point of a bike, provided a car doesn't mow you down in the process and murder you. 

Unfortunately, a lot of people are hesitant to ride Indego bikes—partially because they're scared of dying, but mostly because they don't know how it works. 

So how does it work? 

Pretty simple, really. Basically you just go to a place, swipe your credit card and ride a bike. But if you want to get TECHNICAL about it, and really dive deep into bike-sharing details, grab a snorkel and let’s go!

STEP 1: GO TO A DUMB WEBSITE 
I know, there’s nothing more annoying than having to go to a website (and technically you don’t have to go to a website, but it kinda helps). At rideindego.com, you’ll find a map that shows alllllllll of the Indego bike stations in the city—as well as how many bikes are available to ride, and return, at each location. You can also get the handy Indego app (which I imagine does the same thing, but I couldn’t download it because I have no more storage left on my phone thanks to a bunch of ADORABLE videos of my cats like this one).

On the website (and app?), you can buy an unlimited amount of rides for $15 a month, or purchase a single ride at $4 for a half an hour. Or you can just roll up to an Indego kiosk and buy a single ride as you go. It's up to you, I don’t care. I honestly don’t care. I don’t care about anything. Donald Trump is going to be our next president. I’m moving to France.  

STEP 2: GET A BIKE
Once you find an Indego station (I have no idea if they're actually called “stations”), don’t just roll up to the kiosk and swipe your damn credit card. Calm down for once in your life. Instead, take a quick walk around the bikes. Check ‘em out. Touch their wheels. Kick ‘em. I dunno. Make sure the bike you want doesn’t suck. As far as I can tell, none of the bikes suck, but it’s still worth checking anyway. 

Once you find a bike that doesn’t suck, swipe your card at the kiosk, follow the stupid instructions to select that bike, and then bing bang boom you’ll be riding a dumb-looking blue bike in no time. 

It's a great day to #rideindego! Where to?! 📷: @jeffersonuniv

A photo posted by Indego 🚲 (@rideindego) on

IMPORTANT: After you remove your bike from its little portal thingie (not what it's called), take a deep breath, set down your kickstand, and do all your little doo-dahs before you start riding. You know, like tucking your pant legs into your socks, zipping your phone up in your bag, or jamming a fresh French baguette deep inside your own [EDITOR’S NOTE: CENSORED]. 

Then, get on your stupid bike and go somewhere. 

STEP 3: RIDE A STUPID BIKE
I gotta tell you, riding a bike? It’s like riding a bike. Easy. Freeing. Zippity goddamn doo dah. Instantly, you’ll find yourself pedaling around town like Mary friggin’ Popps, your hair blowing in the breeze, feeling alive for the first time in decades. 

Indego bikes only have three speeds, which is kinda lame, but also sort of nice because you can never go too fast and get too outta control. Before you know it, you’ll feel like a seasoned dirty bike messenger as you blow through stop signs and swerve around cars at red lights (I know, it’s annoying when you’re driving, but on a bike it’s EXHILARATING). It's like you're 14 all over again, gliding around town willy-nilly, on your way to Suzy Eisenberg’s house for a good ole over-the-blanket [EDITOR’S NOTE: NOPE, CAN’T SAY THAT].

After around four wonderful blocks, a burning sensation will light up your quads. Like, really burny. You’ll want to die, and drive into a ditch, but just bare down and keep pedaling. That pain will go away in six to eight weeks. Also, if you grip up your left handlebar a littttttttle too tightly, you might accidentally ring the bell, which is very startling and VERY embarrassing. Some pedestrians might look your way as you ring-a-ding-ding, but just keep on pedaling. Don’t EVER stop pedaling. 

Of course, you’ll have to watch out for the hundreds of motorists (and pedestrians) who can end your life at any moment. Most of them will show up in bike lanes (which should really be renamed UPS lanes), where massive trucks stop to deliver [EDITOR’S NOTE: C’MON, EV] to lonely women on every other block. I’m telling you, I rode from 5th and Walns to 18th and Wash and must have come across at least seven trucks double parked. However, I also passed by around 300 beautiful women—including two pregnant ladies wearing very tight maxi dresses—and nearly wrapped my bike around four different telephone poles. 

But eventually, I made it to my destination. Safe and sound. In one piece. Where I got on with my miserable life. 

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. I love Indego bikes. I love bikes. I love Bjork. And I love that this city is making a concerted effort to be more bike friendly. 

So go out there and ride, idiots. Ride like the wind. Drivers, pay attention and don't run people over. Bikers, don't ride like D-wads. Enjoy your summers. Enjoy your bikes. Eat baguettes. Wear sunscreen. Buy Ben Simmons jerseys. Be nice to each other. And if this orange-faced buffoon really wins the presidential election, let’s all MOVE … TO …  FRANCE.