The Eagles’ 2019 season is upon us, and with it brings as much anticipation and expectation since, when? Maybe 2004, after three straight losing trips to the NFC championship game and an offseason that saw the team add wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Jevon Kearse and linebacker Dhani Jones. Those big moves were finishing touches for a team that went on to win the conference that season and eventually lose to New England in Super Bowl XXXIV.
When the Eagles won Super Bowl LII after the 2017 season, they embodied the “Underdog” theme, doing so to perfection. So it wasn’t really like Eagles fans were on the edge of their seats clamoring for greatness as training camp opened that season. They just wanted progress after the Eagles went 7-9 the year before.
After a playoff run in 2018 and an offseason that had the Eagles adding the likes of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, running back Jordan Howard and many others, the Eagles head into the open of camp this week as a leading Super Bowl contender in the NFC. They’ve dotted all the “I’s” and crossed all the “T’s” in this offseason, adding to an already-good roster, retaining players like defensive end Brandon Graham, safety Rodney McLeod and left tackle Jason Peters and then adding a late shot of adrenalin with the re-signing of running back/return man Darren Sproles. Oh, and the Eagles took care of one huge, enormous, gigantic long-term situation, signing franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to a contract through the 2024 season.
Entering his 15th NFL season, Sproles represents exactly what the Eagles are all about this season. He returns for another chance at making a deep playoff run, a Super Bowl season. Sproles was on the roster but not on the field for Super Bowl LII, having blown out his hamstring in a Week 3 win over the Giants that season. He has accomplished everything in his professional career – he’s sixth all-time in total yards, he has been in the Pro Bowl, he’s got a Super Bowl ring – but Sproles wants that certain something special.
To be here, Sproles knows his role. The Eagles added Howard in a trade with Chicago and they used the 53rd player in the 2019 NFL Draft on Penn State’s Miles Sanders, and they expect Corey Clement to be healthy after recovering from a knee injury and Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams are back and very much in the thick of the picture. Why do the Eagles even need Sproles?
Well, don’t you always want a dynamic player? Sproles is a weapon in the punt return game, something the Eagles didn’t have last season, and he is a threat in a third-down situation with the field spread and a slower linebacker trying to cover him in space. The Eagles see that opportunity as a definite advantage.
But from Sproles’ standpoint, and why he is a microcosm of sorts for this entire roster, is that the veteran knows he’s got a role. He has to be patient. He has to be selfless. There are only so many touches to go around in an offense that is stacked with talent. Sproles, then, is here with a team-first attitude. That’s the general mentality for this roster.
It’s here, it’s real and it could be spectacular. The Eagles march forward with the highest of expectations. To reach their goals, they have to be like Sproles – giving it up for the team. When the Eagles win, every individual wins as well. ••