Darren Sproles had targeted May as the deadline for making a decision on whether he would return for one more season. The calendar has since turned to June and the soon-to-turn 36-year-old running back (his birthday is June 20) has limited options with training camp about to start.
Sproles has repeatedly said he isn’t quite ready to retire. Back in April, Sproles admitted that he was in serious talks to return to the Eagles. The unrestricted free agent made it sound like it was his decision.
“We’ve had some talks,” Sproles told The Atlantic City Press. “I’m going to wait until May before I make my decision. We’ll have to see.”
On Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson attempted to lay to rest any talks of Sproles returning to Philadelphia by telling reporters he had zeroed in on his possible replacement. With training camp set to begin in a little over a month, it would be shocking to see Sproles back in green. Then again, stranger things have happened (see: DeSean Jackson’s reunion).
“We have a player [RB] Boston Scott, who’s been on our roster since the end of last season or halfway through [last season]. He’s a guy that can kind of fill a Darren Sproles [role],” Pederson said without skipping a beat. “He’s in that same body type and same quickness. We’re working him in a couple of different situations as a runner, as a punt returner, and just kind of getting a feel for him because he wasn’t a guy we initially brought onto our team early.”
Scott, a sixth-round pick by New Orleans in 2018, does share a lot of the same similar physical traits and intangibles. He stands at 5-foot-7 and weighs 203 pounds, slightly bigger than the diminutive Sproles (5-foot-6, 190 pounds). Considered an all-purpose back, Scott ran for 1,840 yards and 14 touchdowns at Lousiana Tech and adds value as a kick returner.
The biggest hurdle for Scott will be cracking a crowded backfield that includes Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams. With Sanders missing time in OTAs, there could be a real opportunity right now for Scott to earn the coaching staff’s trust. He’ll have to take advantage of every single snap.
Remember, Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley is still in charge of the running backs, and he’s been known to favor the “little engine that could” types. Problem is, the team has another undersized back trying to make the roster in Donnel Pumphrey, a guy Sproles has been coaching up in his spare time.
How many ballcarriers would the Eagles keep? This reporter’s guess is no more than four, but it was a position of need last year after injuries wreaked havoc. Maybe they keep a guy like Scott around, for insurance and for his contributions on special teams. He also had a productive preseason for the Saints last year, returning three kickoffs for 87 yards.