We didn’t get to see him during the preseason, but Doug Pederson has never wavered that 14-year veteran running back Darren Sproles was fully healthy and ready to put in work for what is expected to be his last season in the NFL.
He got right back to business in Thursday night’s season opener against the Falcons, taking a heavy-dose of reps on offense and special teams. And I’ll be the first to admit I thought, given his experience and injury history, the team would limit him to one position group or the other; but they didn’t.
Sproles was all over the damn field on Thursday, and looked like he wanted to keep going. There was a fire in each foot step, and purpose with each yard. Nick Foles wasn’t doing much with the passing game, but Sproles was more than willing and able to put the offense on his back and trudge toward yet another career milestone.
After eclipsing Steve Smith Sr. on the list of all-purpose yards in NFL history, he snagged a few more and took the No. 6 spot from Marshall Faulk later in the game, totaling 19,216 career yards.
The stat sheet doesn’t really tell the whole story of how Sproles was used in the opener, but the running back had five carries for 10 yards, and four receptions for 22 yards, averaging 2.2 yards per rush and 5.5 yards per catch on the night.
Sproles now sits behind just five of the game’s best players for career all-purpose yards, but at least one of those milestones is attainable before he retires: Jerry Rice (23,546), Brian Mitchell (23,330), Walter Payton (21,803), Emmitt Smith (21,564), and Tim Brown (19,682).
The Eagles running back needs only 467 yards to top Tim Brown’s best, and there’s still a lot of season left.
(I was just so happy to see him back out on the field, and taking on such a big workload for a guy who could easily start dialing back his production.)