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November 19, 2015

For Eagles, tempo = No Darren Sproles

Eagles NFL
111915DarrenSproles Brad Penner/AP

Darren Sproles is playing just 23.6 offensive snaps per game.

Of the Philadelphia Eagles skill position players, one of the few players not to appear on the injury report this season has been Darren Sproles. And yet, despite clearly being one of the more dangerous weapons in their offense, Sproles ranks ninth on the team among their skill position players in total snaps:

Player Snaps 
 Jordan Matthews520 
 Zach Ertz502 
 Miles Austin355 
 Brent Celek352 
 DeMarco Murray328 
 Josh Huff320 
 Nelson Agholor314 
 Riley Cooper313 
 Darren Sproles212 
 Ryan Mathews173 

Without question, Sproles is a far more dynamic and dangerous weapon than most of the players who have gotten more snaps than him in the chart above, and his lack of playing time has left him frustrated, via Jeff McLane of the Inquirer.

"I'm not really on the field. But I don't get into that," Sproles said when asked if he thought he was being used properly. "If they're going to put me on the field, they're going to put me in. If they're not, they're not. You know what I'm saying? If they do put me in, I just try to make the best of it."

The reason why Sproles isn't getting much playing time is, in my opinion, because of the tempo the Eagles run. When the Eagles get their fast-paced "attack" going, they often do not substitute, forcing the defense to keep their personnel on the field. That's "Tempo 101."

Speaking about the wide receiver corps earlier this week, Pat Shurmur explained that the Eagles often have players on the field they'd rather have on the bench (such as Miles Austin) because they don't want to slow down. "There are times when you're trying to play fast when you kind of maybe planned on having another guy in there," said Shurmur, "but then [you say] ‘No, no, you stay in there' because we're going to go fast."

Chip Kelly has noted on several occasions that he likes his players to have similar skill sets, so that he doesn't have to worry about calling different plays for different players on the field. When you're getting snaps off in under 15 seconds from the end of the previous play, giving extra consideration to what personnel is on the field becomes far more difficult. It's been discussed at almost every positional group on the offense. For example, the Eagles don't want to throw out half the playbook when the backup quarterback comes in, and they want their running backs to be interchangeable.

When asked today what the Eagles would be missing if Ryan Mathews cannot play this week, Kelly told reporters, "A running back that we'd use on kind of the same basis as DeMarco in terms of getting them both in the game; not worrying about who is in there. You still have that tough, big, hard-nosed, physical running back. The [other running back isobviously Sprolesy, who is a different type of running back. We use a different approach when Darren's in the backfield."

Sproles is a running back by trade, who happens to be a dangerous receiver when running a limited number of routes. But certainly, at 5'6, he's not going to be running the full route tree on the outside as a receiver, or even from the slot. At running back, the Eagles are almost always going to have Murray or Mathews in the game, because you're not going to pound Sproles with the run 4-5 times on any given drive.

Therefore, when the Eagles get into their tempo sans substitutions, because they have the mindset that they want their players' skill sets to be interchangeable, it's difficult to call plays with an unorthodox player like Sproles on the field.

Hence... No Sprolesy.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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