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Duce Staley says Miles Sanders’ mental focus is ‘unbelievable’

Plus, he talked about how awesome it was to be acting head coach in Pederson’s absence.

Duce Staley is ready to see Miles Sanders develop into an elite 3-down running back heading into his second season. The Eagles’ assistant head coach spoke to the media ahead of training camp practice on Wednesday and talked about Sanders’ potential, his own 10 days as acting head coach, and about Darren Sproles staying around the team.

Here’s what he had to say:

On Miles Sanders

Staley talked about the leap from Sanders heading into Year 2.

“His mental focus right now is unbelievable. Just being able to understand the concepts and what we’re trying to do as an offense with him and other players. And with his skill level, being able to match him up with safeties and linebackers. It’s just Miles understanding the game a little bit better, being able to know what to study and what to look for, and now he’s going out and playing faster in Year 2.”

The assistant head coach was asked about Sanders role and whether they are considering bringing in a veteran player who can take on the short-yardage plays.

“I think Miles can do it all, and when you have a guy like Miles that can make people miss, that can lower his shoulder and also run you over, you want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible, and you trust him. I think that’s where we are. We have Corey [Clement], we have Boston [Scott], we have a cast of younger guys also — we’ll see what they can do here shortly — but as much as I can get the ball to Miles and let him create, go out there and trust him to do the right thing, I think you do it as much as possible.”

Staley also said that Sanders being able to line up in the backfield or in the slot means a lot. Sanders improved each week last season in his protection, route-running, and catching the ball — the three most important things to being an elite 3-down back. The RB has been working a lot on his route-running this offseason.

On his role as acting head coach

Doug Pederson was quarantined for 10 days after his positive COVID test, and while he still lead the team remotely, Staley was the guy on the ground as acting head coach.

“First of all, it was awesome. Just being able to be in that role. For the organization to look at me and trust me to be in that role to lead the team, was the awesome part about it.

I just took it one day at a time, continuing to deliver Doug’s message. Continue to meet with the team, continue to meet with Doug virtually, to deliver his message. I took a lot from it.

It was exciting for me, because, of course, playing here in this great city, coming back coaching, to be able to be the head coach for those 10 days was just awesome. I can’t say enough about it.”

Later on, the coach talked about how the biggest thing he learned during those 10 days was the “3 Ls: Listen, learn, and lead”.

He noted that this year the next man up mentality is also important for the coaches due to the pandemic, so they have to be ready to step in anytime. When Pederson had to step away, he trusted Staley to continue their messaging.

Other notables

  • They do 3 to 4 ball security drills each day, and they watch film on different defenses each day, so ball security is something they’re constantly working on. Staley said that it’s still his job to get the rookies ready in that regard, even in a shortened offseason.
  • He said it meant a lot to still have Darren Sproles around to coach the guys, and it shows the players he’s been around for years — Corey Clement, Miles Sanders, and Boston Scott — that he cares about them and their development, and is dedicated to it. Sproles is also working with Jalen Reagor and other guys on punt returns.
  • Staley said the rookies are doing a good job and they’re working on the language of the offense. He pointed out that many are coming from West Coast style offenses in college, and are used to one-word calls and super quick (or no) huddles. A lot of these things are worked on in OTAs, and teach them concepts and be redundant, so it’s challenging but they’re doing a good job.
  • The coach talked about signing Elijah Holyfield, who plays fast — even though he didn’t run fast at the combine — and learned about 80-85% of the offense in the short time with the team last year, so he’s smart and motivated. Staley also noted that Holyfield is a physical specimen and will get in there and knock players around in protection.

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