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(Acee) Sproles has big upside

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by boltmanbz, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. boltmanbz

    boltmanbz Well-Known Member

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    http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/jan/07/1s7chargers011237-sproles-has-big-upside/?uniontrib
    Sproles has big upside
    Once laughed at for his small stature, he's now looking at enormous payoff in '09
    By Kevin Acee (Contact) Union-Tribune Staff Writer

    2:00 a.m. January 7, 2009
    Darren Sproles was heading for the greatest game of his career when he walked out of the tunnel before Saturday's wild-card win. (K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune) -

    When Darren Sproles walked up to the wall to get measured at the Senior Bowl week four years ago, there were plenty of chuckles among the gathered NFL executives and scouts.

    The markings on the wall only went down to 5 feet, 8 inches. A ruler had to be found to make up the difference and properly document Sproles at 5-6.

    The laugh now belongs to Sproles.

    The kid is going to be paid, perhaps by one of the personnel men who were in that Mobile, Ala., room wondering if the diminutive running back out of Kansas State could make it in the NFL.

    Primarily a kick returner most of his first three seasons in the NFL (he lost the 2006 season to a broken leg), Sproles has never made an NFL start and only twice this season touched the ball from scrimmage more than 10 times in a game.

    Yet, here he is on the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent, having helped carry the Chargers to an AFC divisional playoff matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

    Sproles followed up a 115-yard rushing performance in the regular-season finale against Denver with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in Saturday's playoff opener against Indianapolis, as the Chargers played the final 40 minutes without LaDainian Tomlinson.

    Also catching five passes and returning four kickoffs and three punts that night, Sproles' 328 all-purpose yards were the third-most in NFL playoff history.

    Now a guy who can be lost in a huddle of large humanity on the field fills the cover of the Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands today.

    And even as he prepares for at least one more game as a Charger, wherein he will almost certainly make his first start in place of the injured Tomlinson, Sproles' potential as an every-down back is suddenly the hot topic in the NFL.

    Sproles has just 106 carries in the NFL, including 61 this season and 37 in 2007, as coach Norv Turner has carefully used him.

    But the fact is, playing in the Big 12, he averaged 20 carries a game and 6.1 yards a carry over his final three seasons (39 games). He averaged 5.4 yards a carry this season and also averaged 11.8 yards on 29 receptions.

    “It's the stuff I've seen constantly,” said his agent, Gary Wichard. “All he's done is maintain what he's always done.”

    Go ahead and take that as a hint as to what Wichard thinks Sproles' role can be in the NFL.

    Sproles, who recently said he wants to remain in San Diego, declined to talk about the future. Asked specifically about the future, Wichard said only, “We've got a long way to go. He's just got to keep doing his thing.”

    Sproles sees himself as a back capable of carrying a team's running load.

    “Yeah,” he said when asked if he was an every-down back. What he has done this season, he said, “gives me the confidence to know I can do it” at this level.

    “But I like playing special teams too,” he said. “I like my role. I like to come in and give a team a spark.”

    Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said he would love for Sproles, taken in the fourth round in '05, to remain with the team. Other than to say he had “not started thinking of the franchise” tag in regards to Sproles, Smith would not speculate on what will happen with Sproles. But it is known the Chargers view him remaining in the role he currently occupies, if expanded some.

    Much will depend on what the team decides to do with the 29-year-old Tomlinson, who has three years remaining on his contract but could be traded in the offseason while he still has a relatively high value.

    One influential agent watching the situation develop predicted Sproles will find at least a handful of suitors willing to make him their featured back this spring.

    “I don't think the Chargers can keep him unless they decide to make him the guy,” the agent said. “He's going to be paid like the guy.”

    With Tomlinson sidelined by a strained groin, Sproles will be the guy Sunday. However, noting that Sproles was exhausted Saturday night, Turner has said Michael Bennett will have a larger role this week than his four carries against the Colts.

    Sproles' big games the past two weeks have come against the 27th-and 24th-ranked run defenses. Any yards he gets this week will be earned against the league's No. 2 rush defense.

    “His quickness, I'll be interested to see if he has the same factor in the game in Pittsburgh where, I would say, Pittsburgh's field is not noted around the NFL as being fast and quick,” CBS analyst Phil Simms said yesterday on a conference call. “It can be a little slippery because of this time of year.

    “And teams that have done well against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the year are what I call powerful teams, that have big offensive lines like the Tennessee Titans . . . They have what I call a power running game. One disappointment for the San Diego Chargers this year has been that they have never really run the football with power. It will be interesting (if they can) find ways to get Darren Sproles in space with the passing game or maybe some unique runs. Then he could be a factor.”

    That has been Turner's specialty, when he has used Sproles.

    Sproles had one carry for zero yards and one catch for nine yards against the Steelers in November and only six times during the regular season carried more than three times in a game.

    Sproles acknowledged being gassed Saturday, but anyone would be after that much work. He said he will be ready Sunday.

    “I'm fine,” he said. “I'm ready to do whatever they need me to do.”
     
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    This guy is gonna give Pittsburgh fits. I wish that LT could play, but I honestly believe that we'll be all right in the run game if our OL shows up & plays hard & nasty.

    We'll see if the Michael Bennett insurance policy will pay off.
     
  3. auctoritas

    auctoritas BoltTalker

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    I'm not at all convinced that you would want to give Sproles more than 15 or so carries a game on top of his return duties...if you wear him out you reduce his effectiveness everywhere.
     
  4. boltmanbz

    boltmanbz Well-Known Member

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    i seen him do it in college, im sure he could do it, he just did it in the colts game
     
  5. auctoritas

    auctoritas BoltTalker

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    What he has not done it for is an entire 16 game NFL regular season... I just wonder how effective he would be come playoff time if he had.
     
  6. vegasboy

    vegasboy BoltTalker

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  7. auctoritas

    auctoritas BoltTalker

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    I agree completely.
     
  8. SteelersDave

    SteelersDave BoltTalker

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    The way so many teams have gone to a RB by committee, there are a lot of teams he could fit well on. I would suspect you try to retain him though? I can't see a team giving him huge money based on upside alone, so I would think you have a shot at offering a decent contract for him to stay put....then again teams like the Redskins may prove me wrong lol.
     
  9. auctoritas

    auctoritas BoltTalker

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    All it takes is one.

    I would be shocked if AJ does not try to resign him...whether or not it happens however is an open question.
     

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