The Philadelphia Eagles need more from Miles Sanders.
Here’s the good news. More is there.
As the Eagles begin training camp this week, the Birds’ fourth-year running back enters what could be his final season in Philadelphia at a crossroads. Sanders has missed nine games over the last two seasons due to a variety of minor injuries, forcing the Eagles to lean on Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and quarterback Jalen Hurts in recent seasons.
But when Sanders has been on the field, he’s been an outstanding, if sometimes frustrating, runner.
Yards Per Touch leaders — #NFL RBs since 2019— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) July 27, 2022
1. Austin Ekeler — 6.03
2. Christian McCaffrey — 5.77
3. Jonathan Taylor — 5.69
4. Miles Sanders — 5.66
*Minimum 300 touches #Eagles #FlyEaglesFly https://t.co/P8ZoyAmcbJ
Sanders routinely displays game-breaking speed and an electrifying ability to make people miss in the open field.
In Weeks 13 and 14 last year, Sanders posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts against the Washington Commanders (18 carries, 131 yards) and New York Jets (24 carries, 120 yards), looking every bit the dynamic, game-changing running back the Eagles were expecting when he was taken in the 2nd round of 2019.
Usage was an issue with Sanders early last season, as head coach Nick Sirianni ignored the running back positions in his pass-heavy offense. After receiving 15 and 13 rushing attempts the first two weeks, he tallied 2, 7, 11, 9, and 6 in Weeks 3-7 before he got hurt. But when Sanders did get the ball, he was effective as always, averaging 5.5 yards per carry last season. He clearly has the ability to rush for 1,000 yards, but he’s never really come close to actually doing it, piling up 818 yards in his rookie season and 867 in Year No. 2. Last season, he totaled a career-low 754 in 12 games and failed to find the end zone for the first time in his career.
One thing that could go a long way to Sanders returning to his highest levels of productivity is recapturing his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He was an outstanding option as a receiver in 2019, with 50 catches for 509 yards and 3TDs as a receiver. But those receiving numbers nosedived in 2020 and ‘21 (28/197 & 26/158) as he struggled with drops and, to be fair, substandard play at QB by Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts.
While the Eagles’ outstanding quartet of receivers, tight end and offensive line will get most of the attention this summer, Miles Sanders is understandably getting lost in the shuffle. But with Jordan Howard now in New Orleans, the Eagles enter camp with a RB rotation of Sanders, Scott and Kenny Gainwell, and it will be very interesting to see how this combination of backs is used by Sirianni here in Year No. 2.
But Sanders should be the lead back and, if given the opportunity, and if he can stay on the field, he should put up his first 1,000 yard rushing season.