From the sidelines of the NovaCare Complex practice fields, from any significant distance at all, Boston Scott looks like Darren Sproles, moves like Darren Sproles, even appears to wear the same jersey as Darren Sproles.
He doesn’t. Scott wears No. 49. Sproles wore No. 43. But their bodies and their numbers approximate each other so closely that the comparisons are natural. Scott is 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, a stack of rocks. Sproles is 5-6 and 190 and, for 13 seasons in the NFL, shifted gears like a video-game car. Again, the comparisons are natural, if you stick to appearances.
- Jordan Howard catching on in Philadelphia, expects to be used differently than in Chicago
- Doug Pederson expects all of Eagles’ spring no-shows, including Malcolm Jenkins, to be at mandatory minicamp next week
- Eagles vets missing OTAs means first-team work for hungry players, like Tre Sullivan and Rasul Douglas
In other respects, well, let’s just say the gaps are wider.
Sproles, who apparently hasn’t decided yet whether he will play pro football this year, has 177 games of NFL experience. Scott has two, both of which came after the Eagles signed him off the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad in December. The two keep in contact, Scott picking Sproles’ brain on situation football while preparing himself for the possibility that he might have to step into the role Sproles has held in the Eagles offense for the last five years – when Sproles has been healthy, that is.
That uncertainty is why the Eagles can’t just keep a spot on the roster open, wait for Sproles to make his decision, and hope that he’ll return for another season.
“If you ask him to do 10 things in a row, he will be flawless every time, at a hundred percent, full speed,” Eagles guard Brandon Brooks said in December, after Sproles racked up 119 total yards, making one big play after another, in a late-season victory over the Houston Texans.
“To expand on that, every snap in a practice he’s in is a game rep. Everything he does is above and beyond. His work ethic is crazy, and that’s why he’s lasted so long. That’s why he’s still doing the things he does at 35.”
But the question is whether he can do those same things for a lengthy stretch once he turns 36 later this month. Over the last two years, Sproles has played just nine regular-season games, and for all the respect and esteem in which his coaches and teammates hold him, for all the dynamism he brings to the offense when he’s available, he has reached the point that it’s imprudent to expect him to be available for all, or even most, of a full season.
He is no longer a risk worth taking, especially when the Eagles, by all indications, believe they have an effective alternative already in house. When asked Monday how the Eagles might try to replace Sproles’ contributions, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned Scott immediately.
“We’re working him into a couple of different situations as a runner, as a punt-returner,” Pederson said. “Getting a feel for him because he wasn’t a guy who we initially brought on to our team early. He’s kind of been the one. If you say you’re going to replace Darren, which you can’t, he would be the guy who has kind of taken that role over right now.”
A former walk-on at Louisiana Tech who rushed for 1,047 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior and averaged 6.4 yards a carry during his college career, Scott was a sixth-round pick of the Saints in last year’s draft.
They already had, in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, arguably the best backfield tandem in the league. So it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world for a talented back who had to play behind them to flourish in a better opportunity with another team, and Monday’s organized team activities were evidence of Scott’s place in the Eagles offense, at least for the moment.
He served as the primary punt returner during special-teams drills and lined up as a running back with the first-team offense. On one red-zone play, he swung out of the backfield to the left flat, caught a pass near his ankles from Carson Wentz, and zipped into the end zone. He was doing what Sproles would do if Sproles were here, or if Sproles ever returns.
“He’s the guy who paved the way for a lot of guys who look like me,” said Scott – whose unusual forename was a nickname for his great-great grandfather, a mathematician. “I feel like he really changed the game as far as how guys like us are utilized. He’s given us a shot. I’m thankful for that guy and everything he’s been able to do up to this point.”