The Danger of Too Much Darren Sproles

Darren Sproles had 16 touches in the Redskins game Sunday.

He's 36 years old.

To put that in perspective, it had been 13 years since an NFL running back 36 or older had 16 touches … in a SEASON.

Sproles got nine carries, caught three passes, returned four punts. 

The last time a running back 36 years old got that kind of workload in a single game it was Hall of Famer Marcus Allen in 1997.

Sproles was effective Sunday -- 9-for-47 rushing, 3-for-16 receiving and 4-for-46 on punt returns.

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But it's too much.

There's no way 16 touches a week is sustainable for Sproles, who missed most of the 2017 season with a broken arm and torn ACL and missed most of last year with a lingering hamstring injury.

Jordan Howard had eight touches (for 58 yards) and rookie Miles Sanders 12 touches (for 27 yards). Corey Clement didn't have any.

So Sproles wound up with only four fewer touches than Howard, Sanders and Clement combined.

Pederson acknowledged that he has to keep an eye on Sproles' touches moving forward but doesn't think it was a mistake to use Sproles that much Sunday.

We always are going to monitor that each week," he said Wednesday. "(It's) kind of how our game plan fell with the running backs a little bit. We still want to keep him involved as best we can, but at the same time we want to make sure that Miles and Jordan - because they're both younger backs -- are good and keep that rotation solid, along with Corey.

Some more notes on Sproles' opening-day performance (from Pro Football Reference):

• Only four other running backs in NFL history have ever had 109 all-purpose yards in a game after their 36th birthday: MacArthur Lane of the Chiefs in 1978, Hall of Famer John Riggins twice in 1985, Allen once in 1996 and Fred McAfee of the Saints twice in 2005.

• The last player 36 years old with four punt returns in a game was Troy Brown of the Patriots in 2007. 

• The last time a running back Sproles' age had 16 touches in a game was Allen in 1997. 

• The last time a running back Sproles' age had 47 rushing yards in a game was 2004, when McAfee ran 53 yards on a fake punt.    

The last time the Eagles saw a healthy Sproles in the postseason he was returning an Alex Henery kickoff 39 yards and getting horse collared by Cary Williams to help the Saints record a last-second wild-card win at the Linc in 2013.

He didn't play in the 2017 playoffs and clearly wasn't himself in the postseason last year, with 16 carries for 25 yards, five catches for 35 yards and a punt return for minus-one yard.

His 16 touches Sunday actually matched the 12th-most of his career, and he's played 178 games.

Pederson has used Sproles too much in the past. And you can understand why. 

It's tempting. He's an explosive guy, he never fumbles, he's always in the right place, and Doug knows he can break a game open at any point.

But there's also a point of diminishing returns with Sproles. The more he plays, the less he'll likely be able to help you in the long run. And the Eagles need a healthy, productive Sproles in December and January.

Right now, this is a case of less is more, and Pederson needs to understand that.

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