Sproles' talent, smarts excite Eagles

Darren Sproles has never been a wide receiver.

He’s a running back.

Sproles, who was acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason, led the league with 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011, but his rushing, receiving and return total numbers have decreased in the following two seasons.

Regardless, he’s a running back who can perform in a variety of roles. Don’t refer to him as a wide receiver.

“Yeah, that’s crazy,” Sproles told CSNPhilly.com. “Half the time I get my catches out of the backfield.”

Sproles has 378 career receptions in nine seasons, but the Eagles added him for assistance in the backfield.

“Everyone thinks Darren Sproles is a receiver. He's a running back and a really, really talented running back,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters last month.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins was Sproles’ teammate in New Orleans and was constantly impressed with the diminutive running back.

“He’s small, so you think you can go here and you’d think he’d be a liability but he’s really, really good at pass protection,” Jenkins told CSNPhilly.com. “He understands it. He puts himself in position to make plays. And he’s not just [cut blocking] everybody, either. He’s standing in there and taking on blocks and then holding up. That’s the thing you’d expect to be his weakness and it’s not at all.”

Kelly is looking forward to seeing how Sproles will develop within the intricate Eagles offense. Training camp begins next month.

“We heard from the coaches that coached him what an intelligent football player he is and learned that from the first day he was in this building and how sharp he is and how dedicated he is,” Kelly said. “I talked to Norv Turner [who coached Sproles in San Diego] and he remarked to me when I saw him at one of the pro days, he said, ‘You'll have to slow him down because he only knows one speed.’ And that's the same thing you see. Darren practices and trains at one speed. It's awesome. He fits in with the culture that we want in terms of preparation, but it's everything we wanted when we got him here.”