PHILADELPHIA — Darren Sproles returned to practice Wednesday for the Philadelphia Eagles after missing seven games because of a hamstring injury.
The veteran running back is expected to play Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, according to coach Doug Pederson. The Eagles have the NFL's 18th-ranked rushing offence after finishing third last season when they won the Super Bowl. They lost starter Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury last month.
Wendell Smallwood leads the team with 257 yards rushing and has a 4.3 average per carry. Corey Clement has 167 yards but only a 3.3 average. Undrafted rookie Josh Adams had a breakout game in a win over Jacksonville in London, running for 61 yards on nine carries.
"We've got to make sure as this week goes that he's healthy 100 per cent and that he feels great," Pederson said of Sproles. "Again, we're going to just mix him in. I think we're a different team from Week 1 to now. Obviously, we don't have Jay, but Corey has done a great job, Wendell, and now the emergence of Josh. He's kind of stepped up his game and he's played well, particularly this last game, and now we get Darren back.
"I can't tell you that we're going to feature Darren. I can't tell you that we're going to feature Josh or any of those guys, but Darren is going to be a big part of the game."
Sproles also would return punts. DeAndre Carter handled those duties during Sproles' absence but was released on Tuesday.
Philadelphia (4-4) already boosted its offence during the bye week by acquiring wide receiver Golden Tate from Detroit. Tate spent time last week at the practice facility getting familiar with the offence while the rest of the team was away.
"We've kind of tackled him every single day, trying to get him caught up to just our terminology, the way we call things, how we line up," Pederson said. "But he's been awesome, been in here every day."
Carson Wentz couldn't get wait to throw passes to his new target. Tate joins Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to give Philadelphia another option.
"Adding a piece like that is exciting, a guy with big play ability that Golden brings," Wentz said. "You see him make highlight plays all the time, just the things he can do after the catch is exciting. He fits in really well with this culture."
Wentz should have his best blocker back this week. Right tackle Lane Johnson wants to play despite a strained MCL in his left knee. He was injured on the opening series against Jacksonville and was expected to miss significant time.
"Lane is a tough guy," Pederson said. "In his mind, I think he would want to play, and our expectation is that he does play. But at the same time, I say that, and then I say I don't want to put somebody out there that might be less than 100 per cent, too. We'll get him ready. We'll get all our guys ready, like we do each week. The expectation would be that he plays."
Notes: CBs Jalen Mills (foot) and Sidney Jones (hamstring) didn't practice and seem unlikely to play Sunday. S Corey Graham (hamstring) returned to the field after missing the past three games. DT Tim Jernigan is also practicing, but probably needs more time after off-season back surgery.
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