Sproles and Cox have returned to work, but do the Eagles face new problems?


Both Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles are set to attend the Eagles mandatory minicamp tomorrow after two very different holdouts. Unfortunately for the Eagles however, just because both players have returned to work..it doesn’t mean that a fairytale ending is around the corner. There could be two very different scenario’s playing out for Cox and Sproles as a consequence of their absence.

The return of Cox is a huge sigh of relief for both the team and the fans..but it’s still unclear if any progress has been made in terms of a new contract for the Pro Bowler.

The media will have access to the players tomorrow before practice and it will be very interesting to see what Cox has to say and how he feels about the current situation. Have the Eagles approached him? Was there any truth to the monster deal reports that began to circle numerous times? What does the long term future hold? How quickly can he catch up to the rest of the Defense in terms of learning the scheme?

These are all questions that he’s surely going to be asked within the coming days and if he isn’t, ones where the answers will present themselves over the course of the coming weeks.

Then of course, there’s the on-field activities. Can Cox just slot straight back in as if he was never away? How Will Jim Schwartz react to his late return? Sam Bradford in essence had to work his way back up the pecking order after his holdout..will Cox have to endure the same fate under a tenacious Defensive Coordinator?

The problem is that if Cox returns and everything is as it was, it sets a very laid back tone within the organization..that somehow it’s okay for a player to holdout, miss offseason activities and cause a stir on social media over a contract negotiation. Sure, the time Cox missed was voluntary and in terms of a bigger picture, it’s not going to be detrimental to the development of him or his team, but it’s the principle.

There’s a new era in Philadelphia. Howie Roseman is the GM, there are new coaches and coordinators and with these new additions comes a new vibe, new expectations and new ways of doing things. If Cox can slip back in unnoticed as such like a kid late for class while his classmates continue to do their work and laugh among themselves..all while the teacher turns a blind eye, it’s setting the wrong kind of tone..regardless of how small the scale is.

Despite moral values, the likelihood of Cox facing any kind of punishment is relatively slim. He’s far too important for the Eagles to risk angering even more considering he’s entering his fifth-year option and because the workouts were voluntary it’s hard to justify taking much action. This is more about the organization than it is about Fletcher Cox…who now have a new list of problems to deal with. Roseman has already alluded to wanting to give Cox “Great player money”, but it now becomes a case of being put under even more pressure to find it.

For Darren Sproles however, it’s a very different story. The birds seem to be okay with the reasoning behind the 32 year old running back’s absence, but it doesn’t mean it’s without consequence.

While Sproles actively chose to avoid participating on OTA’s, running back’s Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood have not only seen increased reps..but impressed coaches throughout. From Smallwood’s versatility and pass-catching ability, to Barner’s refined elusive downhill style, competition at the running back position is extremely high.

Barner has bulked up in the offseason and approached OTA’s with an aggressive mentality. With Mathews missing some time due to illness as well, he’s seen a surge in activity when it comes to first team reps, with rookie Wendell Smallwood not far behind him. The two have had more time to learn the system, gel with new quarterback Carson Wentz (a big factor in the long run), and adapt to what could be a very different running game in 2016.

Now, Darren Sproles is going to add fuel to the fire. The question is, will Sproles automatically resume his role as the number two running back on the Eagles roster or have the impressive performances of Barner and Smallwood caused a rethink and a reshuffle of reps? There’s a lot of things that can happen between now and the opening game of the regular season against the Browns, but Sproles may have lost some leverage in what’s already a very competitive battle for reps in the backfield.

Cox and Sproles missed the voluntary phase of the off-season workouts for two very different reasons..but the consequences are almost flipped. The player who chose to miss these activities due to money will face little consequence, while family man Darren Sproles  could face an uphill battle to retain his current position on the roster.


Photo credit: Matt Rourke/AP