Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Kincade & Salciunas: Weekdays 6am – 10am

Darren Sproles didn’t look like an NFL star. Despite an outstanding college career at Kansas State, a  5-foot-6 running back doesn’t project well at the professional level.

The San Diego Chargers selected him in the fourth round of the 2005 NFL Draft. All he did was turn into perhaps the most impactful gadget player in the history of the league. He sat sixth in NFL history in all-purpose yards with 19,696 when he retired in 2019.

Eagles Land Darren Sproles

Chip Kelly needed a dynamic offensive weapon entering the 2014 season after an unceremonious divorce with DeSean Jackson. Dealing a fifth-round pick acquired for Isaac Sopoaga wasn’t exactly a steep trade package for the Philadelphia Eagles. Acquiring Sproles turned into one of the biggest steals in franchise history.

Sproles didn’t make his Eagles debut until age 31. However, he made his only three career Pro Bowl appearances in his first three seasons in midnight green.

The spark-plug running back quickly became a fan favorite when he turned the tide for a comeback victory in his first game with the Eagles.

His role in parts of six seasons from 2014-2019 added a luxury option as a potential home-run hitter in the running game. He added versatility in the passing game as a weapon in the slot and out of the backfield, which constantly kept opposing defenses on their toes. His incredible burst as a punt returner also helped him take four to the house as a member of the Eagles.

Memories of Sproles

Sproles played a role as a small speed back that usually came in as a change of pace. However, there were times when he was the best pass blocker of the team’s running backs. He even became the most reliable runner in between the tackles at certain points too.

Lane Johnson stood about a foot taller than Sproles in the huddle, and Jason Peters outweighed the dynamic speed back by about 150 pounds. However, defenders didn’t make the mistake of taking Sproles lightly.

His incredible bursts of speed created some moments Eagles fans will never forget.

  • Eagles Debut vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (September 7, 2014)

    Nick Foles entered the 2014 season as the starting quarterback. However, skeptics still questioned if he fit into Chip Kelly’s offense. He fumbled three times and threw one interception in the first half to allow the Jaguars to build a 17-0 lead.

    Mark Sanchez was warming up by the end of the first half, but Kelly couldn’t dare pull the trigger so soon. The offense came out of the locker room in need of a score. They faced a 4th-and-1 at the Jacksonville 49, and the second-year head coach called on Darren Sproles in his first game with the Eagles.

    The veteran back showed he still had it with a 49-yard touchdown that got the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field back in the game. The Eagles scored 34 unanswered points in the second half, and Philadelphians breathed a collective sigh of relief thanks to the spark of their new weapon.

    Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014

  • Punt Return TD at the Meadowlands (September 27, 2015)

    Eagles fans undoubtedly recall Brian Westbrook taking an 84-yard punt return to the endzone at the Meadowlands in 2003 to stun the Giants, but there was another punt return in the same stadium worth remembering.

    The 2015 season started as a disaster. The Eagles fell to 0-2 with an embarrassing loss against the Dallas Cowboys at the Linc that made the hometown fans question whether Kelly’s new-look offense could recreate the success of the previous two seasons.

    They faced a desperate situation on the road against the New York Jets in Week 3. Their spark came on an 89-yard punt return by Sproles. The 5-foot-6 speedster showed off an elusive style with more shifts and broken tackles than most of his highlight-reel plays. The score helped the Eagles to a 24-17 victory, and they lived to see another day after a terrible start.

  • Rising from the Dead in Foxborough (December 6, 2015)

    Things really started reeling down the stretch in 2015. The Eagles put out a weak effort in front of the entire country on Thanksgiving day in a 45-14 loss against the Detroit Lions.

    They stood at 4-7 with a looming trip to Foxborough to face a 10-1 freight train. 

    Tom Brady and the New England Patriots took a 14-0 lead with ease that rarely exists in NFL games. It was a hopeless situation, and Eagles fans felt embarrassed about their own team.

    The Birds reminded everyone why they tune into games on Sundays even in the bad times. The road underdogs cut the lead to 14-7, and a blocked punt return for a score tied the game. Malcolm Jenkins made the Patriots push the panic button with a 99-yard interception return to put the Eagles up 21-14.

    Sproles opened the floodgates with an 83-yard punt return. It was the fourth of five consecutive scores that made Bill Belichick’s jaw drop in a stunning loss.

    The 2015 Eagles won’t go down in Philadelphia sports history with many positive memories. However, some fans woke up on a cold Monday morning in December 2015 with something to be proud of. Their team hadn’t quit, and hope persisted, if only for a short time.

    It certainly wasn’t the best victory in franchise history, but it might’ve been the least expected.

  • Sproles Explodes Wentzylvania Craze (September 25, 2016)

    Expectations for Doug Pederson’s first season in Philadelphia weren’t high. Carson Wentz stormed out of the gates as a rookie, and Eagles fans quickly adjusted the outlook. Victories over the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears looked good, but they needed to prove themselves against a quality opponent.

    The Eagles took a 13-3 lead in the battle of Wentzylvania. When they came out of the locker room, Sproles inspired authentic hope for the 2016 season. Wentz hit his running back on a wheel route for a 73-yard score, and the Eagles went up 20-3.

    The floodgates opened. The wide margin allowed the defense to tee off for four sacks on Ben Roethlisberger. The Eagles were on top of the world with a 34-3 victory.

  • Foles Feeds Sproles (December 23, 2018)

    Foles saved yet another season in 2018. His record-breaking 471-yard day against the Houston Texans would’ve never happened without a big day from Sproles, however.

    The 35-year-old missed 10 games in 2018, and he had just eight carries and seven targets in three games since his Week 13 return. In a Week 16 victory, he caught three passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. He added 32 yards on the ground and 13 as a returner. The Eagles went into Week 17 with a chance to earn an NFC Wild Card berth.

    Darren Sproles of the Philadelphia Eagles against the Houston Texans in 2018

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