In his three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, running back Darren Sproles was at best the secondary or tertiary back in a three or four running back rotation. He amassed five rushing touchdowns between 2011 and 2013 in New Orleans...the same number of rushing touchdowns Sproles has scored in nust 11 games this season so far as a Philadelphia Eagle. And that doesn't factor in his vital contributions on special teams. His 2 special teams’ touchdown returns have helped the Eagles to victories this season. Former Saints teammate Drew Brees said it best when he stated "that you only see a Darren Sproles type of player come around once in your career." And to think, the Birds got Sproles in exchange for a 5th round draft pick.
Entering the preseason, Alex Henery was all but assured the kicking duties for the Eagles this season. In his first three seasons, the Nebraska alum connected on 86% of his field goal attempts and only missed one extra point in 117 tries. Then, the preseason started. His only field goal was a 36 yard conversion against Pittsburgh in the team's third preseason game. On August 20th, the Eagles picked up recently released rookie kicker from the Colts named Cody Parkey. Parkey would get his chance to shine in the preseason finale against the Jets making all 3 of his field goal attempts including one from 54 yards out. Two days later, Henery was released and Parkey was named Eagles' kicker. Since then, Parkey has made a case for being a Pro Bowl representative. He enters Thanksgiving having made 92% of his field goals including all four attempts of 50 yards or greater.
Are you sensing a theme here? In his second year in Philadelphia, special teams’ coordinator Dave Fipp has taken an intangible part of the team and made them every bit as important as the offense and defense. Actually, to be honest, the Eagles special teams may be more important than the offense and defense. Under Fipp's direction, the Eagles special teamers have scored six touchdowns this season, and have done so in virtually every way imaginable. Punt returns and kick returns? Child's play. Blocked punt return? Try blocked punt returns in back-to-back weeks. It wouldn't surprise me if they make NFL history by taking a blocked field goal attempt and turning it into a touchdown becoming the only team to ever score a touchdown in 8 different ways. Players are only as good as their coach and Dave Fipp has been pretty special on the Eagles sideline this year.
After tearing his ACL at training camp last July, it was entirely possible that Philadelphia could have relegated Jeremy Maclin down the depth chart or even off the team. But in February, the Eagles signed Maclin to a one year deal to keep him on the roster. With the outright release of DeSean Jackson a month later, Maclin was poised to become the featured wide receiver in Chip Kelly's tempo offense. But could he stay healthy? So far, the answer has been a resounding yes. Through 11 games, he has 980 receiving yards (a career high) and nine touchdowns. He's the unquestionable number one wide receiver on this high scoring Philadelphia offense. The big question now will be whether the Eagles are willing to pay the 26 year old in the offseason.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has highlighted the important of his defenders putting pressure on the opposition. No one has brought more pressure on defense this year than Connor Barwin. In his sixth season prowling the opposition at defensive end, Barwin is having nothing short of a career year. His 12.5 sacks through 11 games is a career high, and are good for second best in the entire NFL. In four games this season, Barwin has recorded multiple sacks. In a defense that has been besieged by injury, Barwin has served as the primary constant.
So on this holiday of reflection let's show some gratitude to the five members of the Eagles roster listed above. Without them (and a few others) today's game in Dallas wouldn't mean as much as it does.
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