How will the Eagles replace Darren Sproles? 7 questions heading into Week 4

Maybe the most important question long-term: Is Carson Wentz clutch now?

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles are 2-1 and tied for first in the NFC East. Sunday’s last-second win is a signature moment of the early season, as the team persevered after being riddled with injuries to come back against the Giants in historic fashion.. Still, fans were frustrated the game got away from the Eagles before they stole it back from New York. So, as the team plans to head west to face the Los Angeles Chargers (still sounds weird) let’s ask some questions. Seven, even.

Which game-winning call was best?

Jake Elliott has become a hero in Philly after his 61-yard field goal to beat the Giants Sunday, and much of the conversation in the early part of the week is which call is best.

Was it Joe Buck’s game-winning call as heard on Fox?

Or was it Merrill Reese with the game-winning call on 94 WIP?

Perhaps it was the Spanish language game-winning call by Rickie Ricardo?

None of those? Really? No, not the Celine Dion versi— Ah, hell.

How will the Eagles replace Darren Sproles?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Sproles was hit during Sunday’s game and on one play tore his ACL and broke his arm, ending his season. But if you read the tweet Sproles sent out late Monday, he’s not suggesting the injuries will be the end of his career.

Sproles had hinted that this might be his last season, but given the way it ended, it’s hard to believe he’d want to go out like this. If he does opt to retire, he’s in the conversation to be a Hall of Famer. Sproles has 3,366 career rushing yards, 4,656 receiving yards, 2,792 punt return yards and 8,350 kick return yards across 12 seasons in San Diego, New Orleans and Philly. All told, Sproles has 61 touchdowns, plus an additional seven scores (and 715 rushing and receiving yards) in 10 career playoff games.

This season, Sproles was a huge part of the Eagles offense, and he leaves a void that will be tough to fill.

Doug Pederson was asked about filling said void, and while he mentioned Sproles being out is a “devastating loss” in the punt return game, he called the running back rotation a “next man up” situation.

“I think what you saw with Wendell [Smallwood] yesterday and even some things with Corey [Clement], it’s going to have to be that next-man mentality. But I think Wendell on 3rd down specifically, Corey, as well, they’re going to have to step up and assume that role. It’s always been the next-guy-up mentality, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”

The good news is the Eagles were finally able to establish the run against New York, with Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount each getting 12 carries for more than five-and-a-half yards per run, while Clement got six touches and scored his first career touchdown. Sproles is a huge loss, but maybe not insurmountably so.

Are the Eagles the most injured team in the league?

Ronald Darby getting carted off the field in Washington.

Ronald Darby getting carted off the field in Washington.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It sure feels like it, but if you look at the sheer number of injuries in the NFL, both short term and long term, it’s not even close. Still, the Eagles may have the highest number of significant injuries after just three weeks.

Sproles is out for the season. His replacement, rookie Donnel Pumphrey, is also out for the season. Ronald Darby, the shutdown corner the team traded for in preseason, is out for more than a month with a dislocated ankle. In the win over the Giants, three of the five safeties — starter Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins — were all out and the Eagles lost both Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks during the game. Pederson said both Cox and Hicks are okay, but will be day-to-day. Of course, the Eagles’ starting kicker Caleb Sturgis is also injured, but that seemed to work out just fine this week.

What about the secondary?

If McLeod comes back this Sunday, the Eagles will at least have what resembles their starting secondary against the Chargers. And while Darby is still out, Rasul Douglas stepped in admirably in his first career start.

When asked about Douglas, Pederson said, “He’s going to be a good corner. He definitely is going to be a good corner in this league. Had a great interception [Sunday], came up and made some big tackles, and that’s what we expect. And he’s just going to get better. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get and the more comfortable he’s going to get when he’s out there.”

Remember: He was the second cornerback the Eagles took in this year’s draft. At some point Sidney Jones will be healthy, too.

Is Carson Wentz…clutch?

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Sunday’s win, Pederson and Carson Wentz were each 8-10 in the NFL, losing seven times by one score. This weekend, thanks to Wentz leading the offense on three late scoring drives, the Eagles saved victory from the jaws of defeat.

So, is Carson Wentz clutch?

I think it’s a great step forward. I think about the conversations we had even back in OTAs and training camp about those incremental advances in our growth process and this is one of them,” Pederson said. “Now we’re kind of turning the corner just a little bit and learning how to finish these games.”

The Eagles had the ball six times in the fourth quarter and after going punt, fumble, punt, the Birds finished the game touchdown, field goal, field goal to win. On those final three drives, Wentz was 6-for-8 for 68 yards, not including a 36-yard pass interference play that led to the touchdown. The most clutch play of the game — other than the 61-yard kick — was Wentz’s throw to Alshon Jeffery, who toe-tapped the sideline with one second to play, setting up the final snap.

Is left guard a problem or not?

It’s not great, but at least the Eagles have depth at one position. Isaac Seumalo was the starter at left guard out of camp, but he struggled in the first two weeks, so he was replaced by a combination of Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski. Wiz was the better of the two Sunday, so expect him to get the most reps going forward. But Pederson assured reporters this will be a rotation during games and Seumalo is still in the mix.

My guess? Pederson was hoping to give Seumalo reps at guard this season to eventually slide him in at center next year for Jason Kelce. Now, he might have to serve as a backup for a while until his number is called again.

Is this the greatest week in sports?

It’s one of them.

Sure, the first week of March Madness is awesome and any time a local team is in the playoffs things get crazy around here. But this is one of the few weeks where all the professional teams are in season. (Sorry Soul.) The Phillies have one week left in their season, the Sixers just started training camp, the Flyers are playing preseason games and are a week from their season opener and the Union are fighting for a chance to make the MLS playoffs. Add in the MLB pennant races, Champions League soccer a big college football slate and it’s one heckuva week. So, yes, let’s #sticktosports, even if sports have become about much more than just what happens on the field lately.

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