One of the Philadelphia Eagles best offensive weapons of the last decade might be interested in a return for a playoff run in this one. Retired running back and punt returner Darren Sproles, who made three Pro Bowls and earned second-team All-Pro honors during his six seasons in Philadelphia, pitched a return for a playoff run as a punt returner during an appearance on the Up and Adams Show on FanDuel TV.
Sproles is the NFL record holder for all-purpose yards in a season with 2,696 yards in 2011 with the New Orleans Saints, according to StatHead.
“When I’m watching the games on Sunday, sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Man, oh man, if they called me right now to go catch some punts or something like that, I think I could still do it,'” Sproles told host Kay Adams when she asked him about watching his former team play this year.
Adams followed up by asking the 39-year-old what he has left in the tank.
“Maybe the playoffs,” Sproles said. “I can give you a great playoff run, just like Weddle did. You know how Weddle came back and did that? I can give you a great playoff run.”
Sproles was referencing the return of retired safety Eric Weddle at the end of the 2021 season to help the Los Angeles Rams fill in for injuries in their secondary. Weddle led the Rams with nine tackles in their NFC Championship Game win against San Francisco, then played all 61 snaps in the Super Bowl win over the Bengals despite tearing his pectoral muscle in the game.
Darren Sproles Was a 2-Time League Leader in Punt Return Yards
During his first two seasons in Philadelphia, Sproles lead the NFL in punt return yards with 506 and then 446 yards. In 2014, he averaged 13 yards on 39 returns with two touchdowns. In 2015, Sproles averaged 11.7 yards on 38 returns with two touchdowns. The following year he only had 17 returns, but still averaged more than 13 yards per return.
The rest of his time in Philadelphia, Sproles dealt with injuries, missed long stretches of time, and had fewer opportunities in the return game. Sproles retired at the end of the 2019 season, after dealing with a torn right hip flexor.
At 39 years of age, it’s hard to imagine Sproles being able to contribute in the ground game or as the great pass catching back of yesteryear, but perhaps a short-term role as a punt returner would be feasible.
Eagles Return Game Lacking Explosiveness
The 8-1 Eagles don’t have many weaknesses, but their return game has been one of them. Britain Covey has 18 returns for just 117 yards, averaging only 6.5 yards per return.
That ranks 23rd among 24 returners with at least 10 punt returns this year, according to the NFL’s statistical rankings.
Anyone who follows the Eagles knows that general manager Howie Roseman is not shy about making calls, and he looks for every opportunity to improve the team. So while it seems far fetched at the moment, perhaps Sproles does hear the phone ring and get a workout and an opportunity.
An experienced, sure-handed punt returner who can bring anything to the table in terms of explosiveness would be an upgrade for Philadelphia, and in the playoffs sometimes a close defensive battle in winter conditions can be sparked by a big return.