Sproles Secures Spot

At the outset of training camp, Darren Sproles faced long odds in his quest to make the active roster. Michael Turner was entrenched as the kick returner; Craig Davis was primed to step in as the punt returner; and Andrew Pinnock's versatility negated the need for a third halfback. After one preseason performance, Sproles had conquered these obstacles and all but guaranteed himself a roster spot.

Darren Sproles was electrifying every time he touched the ball during Sunday's 24-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He rushed seven times for 63 yards, caught four passes for 36 yards, returned one kick for 22 yards and one punt for 13 more.

What stood out most was his ability to bail the offense out of tough situations. On third-and-17, he picked up 16 and put the offense in a convertible fourth-down situation. One drive later, he rushed for 23 yards on a third-and-21. In the final two minutes of the first half, he rushed for a first down on first-and-20.

"He's had that kind of camp," Norv Turner said. "It's amazing how that transfers right into the first preseason game. That's the way he's been practicing and he was impressive."

Sproles had the hands, speed and awareness to excel as a third-down back. All he is missing is the size. Listed generously at 5-foot-6 and 181 pounds, he struggles to pick up rushing defenders. If he can't get at least a solid chip on blitzing linebackers, it will be impossible to keep him on the field.

No matter his role on offense, Sproles appears safe because of his contributions on special teams. He has always been a dynamic kick returner and showed much of the same on Sunday, running decisively and aggressively in his only attempt.

Where he showed marked improvement was with punt returns. He caught two punts inside his own 20-yard line and fielded both of them cleanly. One was a fair catch that he handled smoothly while surrounded by defenders; the other he took near his own goal line and brought back for 13 yards.

"(Sproles) may have set a world record for number of punts caught since last March," Turner said. "He had the ball machine out here in June and July. Some guys were going on vacation; he had people pumping the ball machine to him. He hasn't mishandled a punt."

When you take someone with Sproles' athleticism and refine his skills through such an intensive work regime, you get a player that is absolutely impossible to cut.

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