When the New Orleans Saints allowed Darren Sproles to walk and join the Philadelphia Eagles after the 2013 season, it sparked a debate between our horror podcast and our friends at Fearshop.com (also a horror podcast, but they talk about sports more than horror, angering many of their fans in the process). As Saints fans, we put our trust in the team's front office to make the right decision about an aging running back. In hindsight, this was the least of our worries, obviously. But still, it looks like the Sproles decision was the right move.
As we discussed on our show and as I highlighted in this GBS post from last March, the production just wasn't there for Sproles in 2013. He'd scored only four times and even his special teams contributions were becoming minimal. The argument against us was basically: "Watch what Chip Kelly does with Sproles."
So what did Sproles do last year with the Eagles?
He did score more touchdowns, with all six of his scores coming as a rusher, and he did average 5.8 yards per carry, his highest since 2011. On the other hand, his receiving numbers were far lower than any of us expected. His 62 targets, 40 catches, and 387 yards were his lowest totals since 2008.
One of our main points was that Sproles had lost his touch in the return game. While the Eagles didn't use him on kick returns, he did have his best year as a punt returner in 2014. Although he spent much of 2013 calling for fair catches when it seemed he didn't always have to, Sproles averaged 13 yards per return and scored twice on punts last year.
My biggest concern after 2013 was the lack of impact games, as he topped 100 rushing/receiving yards only twice that year. Sure enough, this held true in Philadelphia as well. Whether Kelly used him "correctly" or not, Sproles kicked off the season with 85 yards in Week 1 and had 178 yards in Week 2, but he never reached 100 yards again. In fact, his 67 yards in Week 16 were the best he could do after that.
I'll say it again: I like Darren Sproles. But I think the Saints made the right call. In my opinion, Sproles contributed positively to two of the 10 wins the Saints claimed in 2013. I'd put that number somewhere around 3.5 out of 10 for Philadelphia last season. He's just not enough of an impact player these days. Maybe I'll be proven wrong in 2015.