Philadelphia Eagles: At 36, Darren Sproles is still here

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Despite entering his 13th season in the league, Darren Sproles proved his doubters wrong with a vintage performance in the Philadelphia Eagles’ win over Washington.

Darren Sproles is the oldest running back in the NFL.

Alright, technically Frank Gore was born a whopping 37 days before Sproles in 1983, but by modern NFL standards, the Kansas State product is a dinosaur.

However, dinosaurs can be pretty darn terrifying – just ask Dr. Ian Malcolm.

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While it seemed virtually impossible one year prior when Sproles announced his intentions to retire after the 2018 NFL season, the 5-foot-6 scatback not only returned to Philly for his fifth straight season – his 13th overall – but actually lead the team in rushing attempts and yards.

And surprisingly enough, it went really well – picking up 47 yards as a rusher, 16 yards as a receiver, and 46 yards as a return man.

Now I have a theory that Sproles’ touches are conversely correlated with the Eagles’ offensive potency, as he often becomes a safety valve when the rest of the offense isn’t running effectively, and for the most part that rang true in the first half.

A lot of ways, Sproles is like hot sauce – he can spice things up but is an absolute nightmare without substance around him.

And in the first half, it felt like Doug Pederson was mainlining Cholula.

Really, the team’s offense couldn’t get anything going until a 53-yard DeSean Jackson bomb shocked the Linc back to life (more on that here). With halftime to get things right, the Birds came out with their typically variable offensive assault and outgunned Washington by a 25-17 margin – 25-10 if you discount a last-second garbage time touchdown.

Despite feeling like the first half was almost exclusively Sproles – and it largely was – he actually earned seven touches in the second half versus five in the first, and mashed in well with new backfield mates Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Miles Sanders – even if Pederson made some questionable situational decisions and when to play each player.

Call it veteran experience, or an exhaustive fountain of youth, but even at 34, Sproles looked more athletic, dynamic, and elusive than any of the Eagles’ rushers, and continued to afford Pederson opportunities to draw up unique concepts to keep opposing defenses guessing.

For a team in win-now mode, that’s valuable – more valuable in 2019 than retaining a player like Wendell Smallwood or Boston Scott who has more tread on their tires.

While Sproles is listed as a running back, he’s hardly your prototypical for the position. Despite remaining gainfully employed for almost a decade add a half, Sproles has never averaged more than seven rushing attempts a game over a full season, surpassing six only three times.

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No, Sproles is what fantasy football players call a flex player; the kind of moveable chess piece who can pick up yards all over the field in a variety of different ways. While he may never become a full-time starter, especially since this is presumably his final season in the league, it’s abundantly clear that Darren Sproles can still play in the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles should be happy to have him for one final ride in 2019. At least Chip Kelly did one brought one good player (and Malcolm Jenkins) to town during his disastrous tenure.