Five Big-Picture Takeaways from Eagles Week 3 Win Over Jets

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1.) Darren Sproles Is the Only Eagles Offensive Player that (currently) Scares Opponents

Sep 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) celebrates a touchdown against the New York Jets during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to imagine the amount of soul-searching that takes place by those NFL players and coaches whose teams have found themselves on the wrong end of a Darren Sproles splash play. Chip Kelly likely took part in doing so quite a bit at the culmination of his first NFL season, when a lengthy Sproles kick return set up the New Orleans Saints for a game-winning drive in a playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field. No matter how many (assumed) conversations take place that go something like ‘we will NOT let Darren Sproles decide this game’, the 5’6″ 32-year-old Swiss Army Knife continues to flip those game plans on their rear-end.

Sproles was at it again on Sunday. Against a supreme defensive mind armed with an arsenal of All-Pro caliber talent, Sproles proved to be the difference between an Eagles win and another week of misery. Sproles’ 89-yard punt return touchdown in the 2nd quarter created a two-possession gap against a team that leans much more heavily on its defense than its offense. The return also nullified a significant advantage the Jets had established in the field position game. This was a trend that figured to catch up with the Eagles if it was not taken care of when it was. Many players also expressed after the game that a play of that caliber tends to give the rest of the team a skip in its step for the remainder.

Something that seemed arbitrary at the time was Sproles’ one-yard touchdown run to make it 24-0. Given all the struggles over the years with Chip Kelly’s offense and its inability to convert on short-yardage situations, for Sproles to plunge himself into the blue-chip Jets defensive line and come out on the other side with the Eagles six points richer was another huge moment in the game. The Eagles were able to hold on from that point for the win.

Having no experience in coaching or scouting, I struggle to come up with what types of conversations take place when trying to gameplan against a player like Sproles. He’s too good a running back to disrespect his ability out of the backfield, too good a receiver to feel comfortable with a linebacker defending him one-on-one, and might be the best punt returner in the game. Were it not for the toll taken on the human body over the course of the game, one would think the Eagles would give him even more touches. There are immense possibilities to what Sproles can bring to the game individually and he takes the pressure off some of the other players on the offense.

It would be unwise for Kelly to formulate a gameplay around Sproles, regardless of what he brings to the table. The moment teams find a tendency or effective measure when it comes to slowing him down, Kelly will have exhausted perhaps his most unusual asset. For what Sunday’s game was, a veritable must-win, Sproles knew it was his time to deliver a win and helped do so in a way only he knows how.