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Nick Sirianni: “If Miles Sanders is healthy and ready to go, he’s our starter”

Plus, the Eagles head coach talks preparing for the Saints and their stout run defense.

Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters on Wednesday, and he explained why he chose to have a walk-thru instead of full practice, citing the team’s late-season bye week (Week 14) and needing to keep the players healthy and rested. He also spoke about the running back group, especially with the potential return of Miles Sanders, and how they’re preparing to face a stout run defense on Sunday against the Saints.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:


On Miles Sanders’ possible return and the RBs

Sirianni says that Miles Sanders has to go through practice this week and they’ll see how he looks. They want to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go, which will be an on-going thing throughout the week. The head coach expects to have some answers by Friday. If Sanders looks healthy, though, he could play on Sunday, with Sirianni calling him one of their better players.

As for who makes the final decision about Sanders and if he’ll play, the head coach emphasized that everything they do is collaborative, so it’ll involve discussion with Howie Roseman, the training and medical staff.

He was asked about how they’ll try and incorporate Sanders back in the mix with Jordan Howard and Boston Scott having played so well the past three weeks.

“I think when you have some guys that have been running the ball well, that’s a good problem to have. And it speaks to the depth we have here in the running back room, in particular. So, a great job by Howie [Roseman] and his staff of getting the players in here and having depth, because we know it’s a long season, it’s a 17-game season. You’re going to have some bumps and bruises throughout the way. So, it’s important that the guys who step in for the starters are ready to go.

Sirianni did confirm Sanders is still RB1 when he returns.

[...] if Miles is healthy and ready to go, he’s our starter. [...]

Sirianni later talked about run game coordinator/OL coach Jeff Stoutland and his role, noting that they talk about everything but he leads up the run game division. Stoutland goes through and see the different ideas, and they like having someone with his experience and success running the football.

“Stout is a great game planner. He’s a great position coach. Again, when you have guys like that on your staff to lean on, that’s a huge advantage.”

On Lane Johnson since his return

“Lane [Johnson] had a phenomenal game and he’s played really well since he’s been back. That game that he had the other day, he just was really physical in that game and was able to open up some lanes where – there was a couple cases where they were bringing an extra guy off the edge, and Lane was able to account for two guys in one play, which is pretty amazing because of the movement that he was getting on the linebacker. I know you guys probably saw that, where he got up to the second level, threw the guy to the ground and gave the first down signal.

I just love the energy that Lane plays with. He’s a great player and everybody can feed off that energy that he brings. So, it’s great to have him out there. He’s been playing really good football.”

On facing the Saints’ run defense

Sirianni was asked what makes the Saints so effective at stopping the run, and he talked about how they’re really stout up front and have a really good front seven — although, he was sure to point out that the rest of the defense is good, too. He also mentioned that he has a lot of respect for Saints DC Dennis Allen and has faced him when they were both in the AFC West.

“Anytime you get that combination of good players, a good coach, the defense is going to look good. That’s a stout front seven, and they’re physical, but we’re physical, too. So, we’re going to have to match their physicality. They’re going to have to match our physicality.”

The Eagles were able to run the ball pretty effectively last season when they hosted the Saints, and Sirianni acknowledged that they’ll look at that tape — as well as a lot of other tape.

“So, we’re going to look at last year’s Eagles versus Saints game, we have looked at the 2019 Eagles versus the Colts game. We looked at the 2020 Chargers versus Saints game. We’re doing our homework and looking at all different avenues.”

On Malcolm Jenkins

“He’s an aggressive player and I know what a good leader he was here. But you still see him playing at a high level. Like I said, he sticks out on the tape as being aggressive. He’s an aggressive player that we’ll have to know where he is in the run game and in the pass game.”

On how they addressed their penalty problem

He admitted that, especially early on, it probably didn’t appear that they were talking about their penalty problem, but they were — and specifically, they talk about and winning the battle of hitting yardage. They’ve been emphasizing it all year, and like other things, sometimes it takes a bit to see the fruits of their labor, but eventually it will show.

“Again, when you’re dead last in penalties like we were, we took even more drastic steps to make sure that we were emphasizing it even more. But it was something that’s always been at the forefront.”

As for what those drastic steps were, Sirianni explained that instead of just talking through penalties they saw in practice, they’d show them in the team meeting and make sure everyone knew how to avoid those. So, they showed more than they were initially, and made a point to emphasize each one they had in games.