LeSean McCoy had a perfectly fine game against the Colts, pulling off a few jukes in open space that left jockstraps all over Lucas Oil Stadium, but the best Eagles running back last night was Darren Sproles. He made everyone wonder why the Saints let him go for a fifth-rounder.
New Orleans had their reasons—space for Jimmy Graham's contract, a crowded running back depth chart—but the big cause was probably a combination of the Saints not knowing when to use Sproles, and deciding it wasn't worth his contract to find out. They've always had a bevy of options for Drew Brees through whom they cycle practically every game depending on defensive coverages. (Look how Saints WR Marques Colston had zero targets Sunday.) The 31-year-old hybrid running back/receiver with a scheduled $3.5 million cap hit just fell out of the mix.
The Eagles benefited from the Saints' problem, getting Sproles for a fifth-round pick. For anyone wondering how Sproles and McCoy, who can catch passes, could thrive together, last night was their answer. Tiny Darren was beasting as a receiver, snagging all seven of his targets for 152 receiving yards. And on his four rushes, the 5-foot-6 back showed he could still take contact, breaking tackles on a 19-yard run to tie the game at 20. Chip Kelly's YAC-reliant scheme involving screens and short passes is a perfect match for the adept pass-catching hands of Sproles. Even when McCoy needs a breather, the Eagles are still quite dangerous at running back.
Indianapolis obviously had bigger worries than Sproles. The Colts' defense tried their best to contain more notable options like Jeremy Maclin and Zach Ertz; Tiny Darren showed them and they paid dearly. On his biggest gain of the night, a dumpoff under pressure that turned into a 57-yard gain, Sproles was being covered by poor linebacker Josh McNary; after the catch, McNary didn't touch him. The Eagles can mix and match their pass-catchers to Chip Kelly's delight, and future opponents should be concerned.
If anyone knew Sproles's potential, it was Nick Foles after the game. "I used to always play with him on the video game back in the day," the quarterback said, "so yeah, I know what he can do."