It’s difficult to believe the New Orleans Saints were going to release Darren Sproles until trading him to the Eagles in March for a fifth-round draft pick.
That might turn out to be the best use of a fifth-round draft pick in Eagles history.
Without the dynamic Sproles, it’s possible the Eagles are 0-2 instead of 2-0. Sproles’ 49-yard touchdown run sparked the season-opening comeback against the Jaguars. His 51-yard screen pass set up the game-tying touchdown during Monday night’s 30-27 triumph over the Colts, and another reception set up Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Sproles finished Monday’s game with a team-leading seven receptions for 152 yards. Not surprisingly, head coach Chip Kelly has quickly found a way to take advantage of the 31-year-old Sproles’ skills. Then again, Kelly may have envisioned Sproles’ feature role from the moment the Eagles acquired him.
“Darren Sproles is an unbelievable offensive weapon,” Kelly said in mid-March, when the Eagles acquired Sproles. “He can do it all – run, catch – plus, he’s a proven winner. And, on top of that, he can bring all of those dynamic skills to the return game as well.
“There is no question we were all excited once we found out we were going to be able to trade for him.”
The Eagles are only two games into the season, but it appears Kelly’s excitable words weren’t mere hyperbole.
ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Perhaps the missing element in the Jonathan Papelbon “adjustment” incident is that the closer was booed in the first place. Papelbon has had a terrific season, registering 37 saves. It is understandable that he was annoyed with fans booing him after just his fourth blown save. The fans’ reaction, however, indicates the degree to which Papelbon has failed to connect with the Phillies Phaithful.
Papelbon is widely perceived as being abrasive and a bit of a jackass – and that bit would probably be the hindquarters. That’s one reason the Phillies haven’t found a trade partner for their high-paid reliever. Sunday’s incident didn’t improve trade prospects Papelbon during the upcoming offseason.
THE LION KING: Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg reminds me of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. He’s big, tough to bring down, has a strong arm. Although both run sparingly, Hackenberg and Luck seem to make good decisions about when to take off and run. On the other hand, both throw risky passes in an attempt to make plays, sometimes resulting in interceptions.
Perhaps the biggest similarity is they’re both winners. Luck led the Colts to more come-from-behind victories in his first two NFL seasons than any other NFL team during that time. Hackenberg has led two late game-winning drives during the Nittany Lions’ 3-0 start, once during their 26-24 season-opening victory over Central Florida in Ireland and during this past Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Rutgers.
HONORING PATERNO: Most of the NCAA sanctions against Penn State have been lifted or curtailed. One sanction that has not been altered is the removal of 112 wins by the Nittany Lions, including 111 under legendary head coach Joe Paterno.
Many Penn State fans plan to show their support for the late Paterno, who lost his head coaching position in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, during Saturday’s game against Massachusetts. Fans are reportedly planning displays using 409, the number of victories in Paterno’s head coaching career – all at Penn State – before the NCAA vacated his victories.
INJURY NOT A BREAK: With Robert Griffin III sidelined by a dislocated ankle suffered early during Sunday’s win over the Jaguars, the Eagles will face backup Kirk Cousins on Sunday (1 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field. This injury may not be a good break for the Eagles. Based on last season, the preseason and the first two games this season, Cousins appears to have a better command of the Redskins offense than Griffin. At this stage, Cousins may be the better quarterback.
SIX-PACKS: It looks like another wild NFL season. There are seven teams with 2-0 records and seven teams with 0-2 records. Who would have predicted the Bills, Texans and Panthers would join the Broncos, Eagles, Bengals and Cardinals at 2-0? And would have predicted the Saints, Colts and Bucs would be among the 0-2 teams?
MR. USA: Congratulations to Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who was named the co-recipient of the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. Holmgren has served in a variety of capacities while assisting the U.S. National and Olympic teams. I remember being at Game 2 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals, when Holmgren became the first U.S.-born player to register a hat trick in the finals.
Holmgren, an underrated player who was among the Flyers’ most valuable players from 1979-81, may also be an underrated general manager. Holmgren, who relinquished the GM job to Ron Hextall after last season, received a lot of criticism – and much of it is deserved – for some of the long-term contracts he gave out, but looking at Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg at Flyers rookie camp, it’s clear that, for the first time in decades, the Flyers have legitimate defenseman prospects in their organization.
MATCH POINT: The Union are promoting Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against Seattle as the biggest match in franchise history. As I’ve written previously, I’m baffled as to how a match that doesn’t count in the standings of the league in which a team plays can be considered so important, let alone be the biggest match in franchise history.
U.S. IS GOLDEN: Kyrie Irving made all six of his 3-point attempts en route to 26 points as the United States crushed Serbia, 129-92, on Sunday to win the FIBA Basketball World Cup. The U.S. won each of its games by at least 21 points. Irving was named tournament MVP, which should come as good news to Cavaliers fans.
NO ROOM FOR BAD BREAKS: With the new Chase for the Sprint Cup format, which eliminates four drivers every three races, it’s difficult to rebound from a bad performance. For example, Aric Almirola experienced engine trouble during Sunday’s Myafibstory.com 400 and didn’t finish the race. Despite leading for two laps, Almirola finished 41st, which leaves him a huge hill to climb during the next two races – at New Hampshire and Dover – if he’s to survive the Challenger Round of the Chase.
Even A.J. Allmendinger and Greg Biffle, who finished 22nd and 23rd, respectively, left themselves little margin for error during the next two races.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 26 years, still remembers an Islanders fan refusing to honor a bet we made during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals when Paul Holmgren became the first U.S.-born player in NHL history to register a hat trick in the finals.