Sep 15, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) scores a touchdown as he breaks a tackle by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Josh McNary (57) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Stopping “Mighty Mouse”?
One of the keys to stopping the Philadelphia Eagles‘ playmaking abilities will be not just to contain running back LeSean McCoy, but also his backfield-mate in Darren Sproles. Sproles made his way to Philadelphia after playing three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, while being quarterback Drew Brees‘ safety outlet.
With McCoy’s slow start, the Eagles’ running game is not what it was during a year ago at least at this point. Despite seeing very limited opportunities, Sproles has made the most of them by averaging 6.9 yards-per-carry on 25 rushing attempts. But the part of the game that the New York Giants may have the most trouble containing him is in the return game.
Back in week two, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver and return man Tedd Ginn Jr. really swung the momentum back in the Cardinals’ direction when he returned a 71-yard punt for a touchdown during the fourth quarter and that really punched the wind right out of the Giants’ gut as they went on to lose 25-14. The Giants have caused a lot of uneasiness for themselves and their fans with poor special teams coverage. If Ginn had been better contained, the result of the game could have gone in the Giants’ favor despite the turnovers. But what is done is done. Learn from it and move on the G-men must do.
Sproles’ best asset is that he is dangerous in open space. While he’s not an in-between the tackles grinder, he can make one man miss and go a long way. Containing Sproles in the passing game and return game is very likely this upcoming game’s x-factor in the sense that this facet of the game can easily swing momentum in the favor of the Eagles if Sproles can get yards during those times. Field position will be pivotal and Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn must preach backside control with Sproles’s agility that makes him capable to cut quickly and allows him to pick and choose his running lanes.
On defense, I see defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka needing to stay disciplined in their gaps regardless of run versus pass. Sproles, along with McCoy, is likely to run off-tackle and utilize speed to beat their opponents to the edge. While I do not expect JPP and Kiwi to outrun either of the Eagles’ backs, displaying gap-discipline should somewhat limit the ability for the Eagles to rush off-tackle and wide. Keep in mind, that being more disciplined may limit the Giants’ pass-rush, although JPP has been doing a good job of throwing his hands up to deflect passes.
The Giants defensive line as a whole will be the ones to dictate where Darren Sproles and the Eagles go with the football. If defensive tackles: Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins can add some pressure up the middle, then that will force the Eagles’ backs to resort to the gaps that JPP and Kiwi will man, and how that duo plays will be huge in determining the Giants’ chances to limit Darren Sproles’s big-play ability on offense. And possibly — the outcome of the entire game.
Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to chime in below.