Darren Sproles Resumes Practicing for Saints, Overloads Backfield

Sproles back on the practice field for Saints, overloads backfield

11/14/12 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Oct. 21, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback E.J. Biggers (31) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. The Saints defeated the Buccaneers 35-28. Mandatory Credit: Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRENew Orleans Saints' running back Darren Sproles has resumed practicing for the first time since undergoing surgery on his hand about two weeks ago. This is just about the best case scenario for the Saints' scat back, as he was rumored to be in for an absence of as many as eight weeks. Though he was said to be limited in practice, head coach Joe Vitt said Sproles was "a full-go in pads and looked good." As of now, it looks like he'll be active for Sunday's game against the Raiders.

When Sproles returns to game action, he'll immediately resume his role of the passing down specialist, and shouldn't see a decrease from his pre-injury fantasy value. What will be interesting to monitor, however, is how Sproles' return affects the Saints' power backs.

Pierre Thomas led the Saints in rushing attempts before Sproles got hurt, but has since been squeezed out of the picture by Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. Ingram hadn't averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry in any game before Sproles was sidelined, but has averaged 4.8 yards per rush in the two games Sproles has missed. Chris Ivory, on the other hand, had not played a single snap before Sproles' surgery, but has received 17 carries to Thomas' 11 over the past two games.

Those three running backs have combined for an average of 25.5 carries while Sproles has missed time, and they will have a hard time maintaining that number with their best running back set to return from injury. The Saints will likely want to keep their backs in a rhythm during the game, rather than have them each getting random spot carries with no rhyme or reason. As a result, one of them will likely be squeezed out of the rotation.

Based on the past two games, it seems like Thomas would be the odd man out, but Thomas had 58 carries to Ingram's 47 before the Sproles injury and was far more effective.

For any fantasy owners who plan on using a Saints' running back not named Darren Sproles, this is a situation you'll have to keep an eye on, and we may not know how it will play out until we see the team in action on Sunday.
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