The Saints knew they were getting a dangerous kick returner and a dynamic change-of-pace back to help as a rusher and receiver when they signed Darren Sproles to replace Reggie Bush in the offseason, but Sproles is exceeding the expectations the team had for him heading into the season.
Sproles is having a career year. He leads the team in rushing — he has gained a career-high 348 yards on 51 carries (6.8 average) — and is second to only TE Jimmy Graham in receptions with 60 for 448 yards heading into New Orleans' Monday-night game against the Giants. QB Drew Brees lavished high praise on the fleet-footed seventh-year back this week, singling him out as a driving force behind the team's success on offense. The Saints are on pace to set a franchise record for yards in a season, and only the Packers are scoring more points per game than New Orleans (31.3).
"What I know is within the framework of what we do offensively, (Sproles) can do everything," Brees said. "We ask him to do a lot and it's never too much for him. There's not a guy that I have more trust in with protection, with catching the football out of the backfield, giving the ball to him in critical running situations. Whatever it may be, the guy is a ballplayer and I'm glad he's on my team."
It spoke to the depth and resourcefulness of the Saints' offense that Sproles was a nonfactor on offense in Week 10 — he had a season-low six touches for only three yards — and the Saints never trailed by more than three points before winning a hard-fought battle in overtime on the road against the division-rival Falcons.
He was quiet on offense that day, but Sproles had a couple big returns in the game, giving the Saints good position to start drives, which is something he has done consistently this season. He still can make a difference on special teams if defenses focus on taking him away as a rusher and receiver, and the Saints are confident they can win games by getting their other weapons on offense more involved if the opposition makes Sproles its No. 1 target to stop.
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