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July 31, 2019

Eagles mailbag: Are we sure Darren Sproles is a good receiver?

Eagles NFL
073119DarrenSproles Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Darren Sproles has had an excellent career, but what he is now is not what he was in his late 20's.

Since the start of training camp, the volume of emails I've received has ramped up a bit, so let's go ahead and answer some of those questions in an Eagles mailbag.

Question from Johnny: Hey Jimmy what are you talking about? Do you think Sproles forgot how to catch? 547 catches later. Maybe when he catches 548 you will be a believer. I hope you were joking, if not, why do you waste your time to inform when you are less so? You have a great platform, be better. I know you can.

Lol. This was in response to one of my practice notes over the weekend. I wrote the following: 

To note, I know that Sproles gets a lot of credit for being this great receiver, but I think he's a little overrated in that area. He has his share of drops, and it's also worth noting that he probably has the smallest catch radius in the NFL, which makes him a difficult player to throw to.

Beginning in 2016, I started charting the Eagles' drops every year. Since then, I have Sproles down for 7 drops and 74 catches, meaning that he has 7 drops on 81 catchable passes. That's a drop rate of 8.6 percent, which is obviously not good, especially for a player catching so many short passes. And it's funny to me when I watch all of the Eagles' drops each year. Every time Sproles has one, you'll hear the announcer say, "You don't see Sproles drop passes very often." But he does.

On the catch radius point, Sproles is 5'6 with 28 1/4" arms. As a result, he's a very difficult player to throw to, and you'll often see passes that are just out of his reach fall incomplete that other running backs might catch.

In his five years with the Eagles, Sproles has 169 catches on 251 targets for 1435 yards and 5 TDs. That averages out to 34 catches for 287 yards (8.5 YPC) and 1 TD per season. He's averaging a very low 5.7 yards per target. Yes, he'll still make a play here and there in the passing game, but on the whole, he has simply not been a super-efficient receiver in his five years in Philly. Or at a minimum, he's not the receiver most people think he is.

Has Sproles racked up a lot of receptions over his career, as the reader states? Of course. He's been in the league since 2005, and had a span of three years in New Orleans in which he was averaging 77 catches per season. He has had an outstanding career and some believe he's a borderline Hall of Famer. 

But in terms of receiving efficiency, the player he was in his late 20's has nothing to do with the player he is now.

Question from Bruce: Am I overly paranoid that Wentz is “lean?" He needs to be nimble for sure but some muscle around those ribs and vertebrae seems like it would help. Is he a twig ready to snap?

While leaner, he definitely doesn't look like a twig out there. Wentz clarified that he didn't drop pounds intentionally. He's just eating better, and the loss of a few pounds was an added bonus. But there's no muscle loss, as far as I understand. He should be stronger.

Question from Bob: Do you see them signing that DT from Arizona, Robert N.? Can't say or spell his name.

Ha, that would be Robert Nkemdiche. I think it's pronounced "KEM-DEE-CHAY." Anyway, no. Deadspin recapped his career in Arizona, and it isn't pretty. While "you can never have too many defensive linemen," as the cliché goes, he Eagles are pretty loaded at defensive tackle, and thus don't have a need to gamble on a guy with so many character concerns, the most notable of which is that he's currently out of shape.

The guess here is that he'll sign with some crap team that doesn't need him to be good this year, that hopes they can straighten him out and make him a productive player in the long-term. 

Question from (no name, email address only): You do realize that Zeke went to Cabo to work out, right? It's not like he's clubbing.

Uh, I haven't said a thing about Zeke in Cabo. But that small point aside, three things:

  1. How do you know what he's doing in Cabo? 
  2. To steal your phrase, "you do realize" that that's a terrible look, right? And, I mean, it's CABO, you know, the same place Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and others went to before a quick playoff loss in a season in which they were the No. 1 seed?
  3. I mean, he's in Cabo! Lol.

The Cabo stuff aside, I am enjoying Jerry Jones' posturing that the Cowboys don't believe they need a stud running back to win a championship, when, you know, they drafted one fourth overall and their team is built around their rushing attack.


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