The New Orleans Saints are having a nightmare season in 2012, but to make matters worse, the Saints will be without one of their most explosive players this Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, Darren Sproles.
According to the Associated Press (via FOX Sports), Sproles had surgery on his broken hand and won't be available to play this week as the Saints look for their third win of the season.
This injury is a tough blow for several reasons.
Sproles is one of the team's running backs and despite the fact that he hasn't seen much action in that role this season, the 5-foot-6 back is still an explosive player, as evidenced by his season-high run of 47 yards.
As if that weren't bad enough, the Saints are currently ranked No. 32 in the NFL running the ball, so losing Sproles' services won't help that much.
Drew Brees will also be missing one of his favorite receivers this Monday now that Sproles can't go. The Saints running back has compiled 39 catches for 323 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is the team's third leading receiver behind Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
In this aspect, Sproles is a great short passing option for Brees to throw to when the pressure comes from opposing defenses. But Sproles won't just pick up a few yards when thrown to because he has an uncanny ability to rack up yards after the catch by making defenders miss tackles.
Last but not least, Sproles is also an excellent return specialist.
Sproles is averaging 28.7 yards per kick return this season, good enough for No. 7 in the league. For punts, Sproles hasn't been as impressive, but he's still better than your average returner and certainly better than anyone the Saints can replace him with.
Having Sproles returning kicks can often help set the Saints up with good field position which is something New Orleans'' offense definitely appreciates.
Losing a kick or punt returner is one thing, but to lose someone with the versatility that Sproles possesses is something that the Saints will have a tough time overcoming. Not having Sproles on the field is one less thing the Eagles defense will have to gameplan for on Monday night.