The Eagles traded DeMarco Murray to the Titans during the offseason opening up a spot on the roster for a starting running back.
Murray’s 807 rushing yards in Tennessee are second only to Ezekiel Elliott so far this season. But add up the Eagles total rushing yards — split between their four running backs and you get 811 yards. The only problem is they really don’t have a clear No. 1. And that their combined rushing attack put them statistically in the bottom third of NFL teams.
Ryan Mathews got the lion share of carries to start the season but a variety of minor injuries limited his availability. Sunday in a loss to the Giants Mathews had just two carries, with Darren Sprolesassuming the role of featured back and Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwoodmixing in for good measure.
“Obviously, Sproles, we’ve given him the ball the last couple of games,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said of Sproles and his 13 carries. “Wendell, obviously, and Kenjon are special teams players who have those back-up roles on offense. And a lot of times, you know, the temptation, I guess, is, yeah, you definitely want to see your young players perform and put them in those situations, and see what they can do, and hopefully now this second half of the season, we’ll get a chance to do that a little bit more.”
The younger players, Smallwood and Barneraverage a respectable4.4 and 5.2 yards per carry respectively on limited carries — though Smallwoodcoughed up a key fumble in a loss a few weeks ago. Barner has two touchdowns.
Sproles, who is 33-years-old, looks to be the number one. And his versatilitymakes it tough for defenses to contend with his value to the passing game.
“By stats and by what you’re seeing, I would say that Darren is the No. 1 back right now,” the coach said.
If you combine Sproles’ rush and receiving yards you get an Eagles-leading 526 yards from scrimmage.
“We haven’t hung our hat on one guy, but we tend to lean more towards Darren Sproles,” Pederson said.”It’s hard to take him off the field right now.”
With so much mileage onSproles’ odometer, it will be interesting to see if he continues to be on the field for 80 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, as he did in Sundays’ 28-23 loss in New York.