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Miles Sanders poised to be Eagles’ most heavily featured running back in Doug Pederson era

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Eagles training camp position preview: Running backs.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is right around the corner ... maybe? Players are currently scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex later this month. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles’ roster. We continue today by taking a look at the running back position. Previously: Quarterback.


THE PLAYERS

MILES SANDERS

Sanders showed star talent down the stretch in 2019 and ended up leading all rookies in total yards from scrimmage. Now the 23-year-old is targeting an “MVP year.

Sanders is unlikely to achieve that lofty goal considering the league hasn’t seen a running back finish as MVP since 2012. Going back further, there have only been two non-quarterback MVP winners since 2007.

Still, Sanders is very well poised to have a big 2020 season. He no longer has inexperience working against him like he did early on as a rookie. He also no longer has to share a backfield with an established veteran since Jordan Howard departed in free agency.

Sanders projects to be the Eagles’ most featured running back since the Doug Pederson era began in 2016. Now, this isn’t to suggest that he’ll regularly be logging 20 carries per game. First of all, only Derrick Henry made it over that mark last year (and just barely at 20.2). Secondly, we know the Eagles have been wont to rotate their backs.

But unlike in years past, Sanders is the guy. Contrast the Eagles’ current backfield setup to the configuations since Pederson arrived:

2016 — Ryan Mathews (11.9 attempts per game), Darren Sproles (6.3), Wendell Smallwood (5.9)

2017 — LeGarrette Blount (10.8), Jay Ajayi (10), Corey Clement (4.6)

2018 — Josh Adams (8.6), Corey Clement (6.2), Wendell Smallwood (5.4)

2019 — Jordan Howard (11.9), Miles Sanders (11.2), Boston Scott (5.5)

ESPN’s Mike Clay projects Sanders to log around 17.4 carries per game. I was thinking Sanders will at least be around the 15 mark. Really, he’s too good not for the Eagles to get the ball into his hands.

And we’ve really only talked about Sanders as a runner thus far. He’s obviously a pass-catching weapon as well. In theory, the field-stretching speed that the Eagles are adding to their offense should clear up space for Sanders. It’ll be harder for teams to key in on him in the passing game like they could when he was arguably (and sadly) the Eagles’ best deep threat for a good portion of the 2019 season.

Really excited to see Sanders’ sophomore season. He’s going to make a real big leap. And it’ll start with a camp where he looks ready for that next step.

BOSTON SCOTT

Scott started the 2019 regular season as a practice squad member and finished it by winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week. I believe that’s what the kids call a “glow up.”

Scott, AKA Juice Lord, earned his spot on the 2020 roster with how he performed down the stretch last year. It’s just a matter of what his role will look like. The natural thought is that the Eagles should use Scott akin to how they used Darren Sproles. That’s to say, a guy who gets a handful of carries per game in addition to a few targets.

Scott figures to be a nice offensive contributor as a role player. Can he handle more than that should something happen (God forbid) to Sanders? Perhaps on a short-term basis but the Eagles are bound to utilize a much heavier rotation if Scott is the top backfield option.

COREY CLEMENT

It’s do-or-die time for the Eagles’ leading receiver from their Super Bowl LII victory. Clement appeared poised to take a step forward after a promising rookie season but multiple injuries prevented progression over the past two years.

If Clement can stay healthy, he’s a quality committee back to keep around. He runs hard, he has some pass-catching chops, and he can contribute on special teams. Clement could have a small offensive role while providing the Eagles with depth.

ELIJAH HOLYFIELD

Holyfield was an intriguing late-season add by the Eagles after spending 2019 on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. Holyfield lacks speed (see: 4.78 second 40-yard dash) but he’s physical and could be that physical runner the Eagles like to keep around (see: Jordan Howard, LeGarrette Blount). Holyfield will likely have to earn his spot on the roster with a good summer. He could be good to have around for short-yardage and clock-killing situations.

MIKE WARREN

Warren was nicknamed “Truck” at Cincinnati, so that should give you an idea of his running style. The Eagles gave him the sixth highest guarantee out of their 13 undrafted rookie free agent signings so they like him to some extent. As a UDFA, Warren already has an uphill battle to make the team. Having no real offseason only hurts him more. Warren profiles as the physical runner the Eagles could afford to keep around but the practice squad might be a more likely landing spot.

ADRIAN KILLINS

Killins has already become something of a fan favorite in some circles despite the fact he’s only a UDFA signing. People seem to be intrigued by his speed. But the reality is he’s a long shot to make the team. The Eagles paid Killins the eighth highest guarantee out of their 13 UDFA signings and he’s not going to have a full offseason to impress the coaching staff. All for keeping him around on the practice squad with the hopes he can be a fun role player someday.

HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?

Sanders is going to be the Eagles’ main back. I’d say Scott is the only other true lock to make the team. Clement is in a good spot to make it if he can stay healthy. Then the Eagles have the like of Holyfield, Warren, and Killins battling it out for a fourth spot.

One must also consider the Eagles’ reported interest in veteran running backs like LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman. The understanding here is that the Eagles would still like to add to their backfield, although only at a very low price. Maybe they trade for a rookie contract player like, say, Royce Freeman?

WHO COULD BE A SURPRISE CUT?

It’d be surprising to see Clement beat out at this point since the coaching staff would probably prefer to lean on his experience over other unknown guys. The bigger surprise will be who the Eagles add at this position.

Poll

On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ running back position? (5 being the most.)

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    5
    (328 votes)
  • 58%
    4
    (701 votes)
  • 12%
    3
    (153 votes)
  • 0%
    2
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (9 votes)
1201 votes total Vote Now