Eagles introduce new weapons on offense and defense

Posted: March 16, 2014

WHEN IT BECAME clear that the New Orleans Saints were not going to bring him back next season, Darren Sproles asked the team to give him his release rather than trade him, so that he could pick his next - and probably last - NFL destination.

The Saints, of course, ignored his wishes, but did end up trading him to a playoff team with an explosive offense that fits Sproles like a $3,000 suit.

"When I found out I was coming here, I was excited," the new Eagles running back/wide receiver/return man said yesterday. "It worked out for the best. They could've traded me somewhere where I didn't want to be.''

He couldn't be happier to be an Eagle. For the bargain-basement price of a fifth-round draft pick, the Eagles added one of the league's most dangerous space players. In the last three seasons with the Saints, Sproles caught 232 passes, including 16 for touchdowns. Only the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles has a better yards per carry average than Sproles (5.1) among active running backs.

And after 3 years as a valuable chess piece for Sean Peyton, the 31-year-old Sproles has gone to yet another team with an imaginative coach who will find ways to maximize his talent.

As an added bonus, Sproles, who was entering the final year of his contract, signed a 2-year extension with the Eagles yesterday.

"I feel like I can really help," the 5-6, 190-pound Sproles said. "I can help in the return game and come in and learn some routes out of the backfield, too.

"I think it's going to be fun. For me, watching them last year from a distance, they do a lot of good stuff, a lot of [getting players in] space. I like that.''

The Eagles also introduced their newest free-agent signee, cornerback Nolan Carroll, to the media. Carroll, 27, started 22 games for the Dolphins the last two seasons. The 6-foot, 204-pounder gives the Eagles another cornerback with length who can play man-press coverage.

"That's all I did really in Miami," he said. "Same thing here. That's how they see me. That's how they view me. That's my skill set. That's what I bring to the table as far as being on this defense and competing against those receivers and getting up in their faces and disrupting a lot of the timing on routes."

Carroll said coach Chip Kelly told him he will get an opportunity to compete for a starting job against Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher. At the very least, he gives the Eagles much-needed depth at cornerback.

Last year, they seldom played four-corner dime packages because defensive coordinator Bill Davis didn't have a fourth corner he could trust.

"Looking at the roster, they didn't have a lot of depth on the roster," Carroll said. "So I just want to come in and compete for a job."

With the addition of Carroll, the Eagles will have three corners who are 6 feet or taller, which is important in today's game, as the wide receivers keep getting bigger and more physical and the back-shoulder fade becomes a more important offensive weapon in the red zone.

"Those guys on the other side of the ball are getting up there in height," Carroll said. "Those guys are 6-4, 6-5, some 6-6. You've got to be able to have the length on the outside to deal with it.

"You see up in Seattle. Those [corners] are 6-3. They've got the long arms. Those are the things you want on the outside, so you can disrupt the timing of receivers and their routes and be competitive on the outside and not give them free access to throws.

"Me, Bradley and Cary, we're all lengthy guys. We're going to get our hands on receivers and be competitive and do what we need to do."

On offense, the addition of Sproles and the return of Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, figure to make an offense that set a franchise record for scoring and finished second in the league to the Broncos in yards per game even more prolific.

"I think it could get real crazy," Sproles said of the potential of the Eagles' offense.

While he is technically a running back, Sproles never has had more than 93 carries in a season. Last year, he had only 53 rushing attempts with the Saints. Probably won't have more than that this year with the Eagles.

He has primarily been utilized as a pass-catcher during his career, and that is how the Eagles are expected to use him as well.

"Anywhere in space," Sproles said when asked how he'd like to be used. Look for him on a lot of bubble screens and wheel routes.

Even though he's 31, Sproles is a young 31. He has only 1,338 career touches - 437 rushing attempts, 378 receptions, 328 kickoff returns and 195 punt returns - in eight seasons. That's 83 fewer touches than LeSean McCoy has had in his first five seasons.

"I feel great," he said. "I'm not much of a pounder, so I'm not really taking those big shots."


Nathan Carroll's mother, Jennifer Carroll, is the lieutenant governor of Florida.

Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian.com

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