The New Orleans Saints will have to play without running back Darren Sproles against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, but Drew Brees and the high-powered passing attack will not be slowed down.
The speedy back broke his hand and underwent surgery due to the injury. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that he will be out against the Eagles, but may only miss one more game after that.
Sproles is coming off a season in which he set an NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards. While none of the Saints' offensive players have been as productive as they were last year, he is still a dangerous player.
Brees has targeted Sproles 52 times this season, and the 29-year-old has pulled in 39 receptions for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He has carried the ball just 26 times for 117 yards.
Sproles’ production makes him the Saints’ third-leading receiver, but his 8.3 yards-per-catch average is the lowest of any receiver on the team with at least 10 catches. This is due to his role as a checkdown option on many of New Orleans’ plays.
This is a valuable duty in the offense, and the Saints do not have another player who can fill in for Sproles and be nearly as effective. However, Sproles’ absence would only create a glaring weakness against a team with an effective pass rush.
This season, the Eagles have not been one of those teams. Philadelphia’s nine sacks this season is the second fewest in the NFL.
While the Eagles have talent along the defensive line, the team has failed to generate an adequate amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The Saints offensive line has certainly struggled more than it has in several years, but Brees has still been brought down just 13 times. Brees will have time to throw on many of his drop-backs on Monday night, and because of this, he will not need to rely on his checkdown options as often.
With Sproles in the lineup, New Orleans is obviously a more dangerous offense than it is with him on the sidelines. But due to the Eagles’ struggling pass rush, his absence will not hurt the team as much as it would in other matchups.
When this offense hits the field in the Superdome, it will still be extremely effective through the air, despite Sproles having the watch the action.