'Bigger Role' Embraced by Miles Sanders
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
For the first time in Doug Pederson’s head-coaching tenure, his notorious running back-by-committee approach will be extinct, due to the rise of second-year runner Miles Sanders. “I just want to help this team win as much as possible,” Sanders said recently in a Zoom interview with reporters. “Like they’ve been telling y’all, I’m going to have a bigger role. That’s a blessing to me, honestly. I’m just excited to do whatever I can to help the team win, whether it’s on the ground or in the air.” Despite a relatively underwhelming start to his pro career, Sanders was ultimately responsible for the most rushing yards (818), yards from scrimmage (1,327), and all-purpose yards (1,641) by any rookie in Eagles’ history. In fact, his 1,641 all-purpose yards led all NFL rookies last season.
Although it took a Jordan Howard injury to turn the backfield over to Sanders, the Penn State product proved to be equally proficient as a runner and receiver. With Howard sidelined for the stretch run, Sanders undertook a more prominent role on offense, accumulating 80 carries for 381 yards and two touchdowns in December. The run was sparked by a 172-yard all-purpose effort in a matchup against a reeling Washington team. Following a record-setting rookie season, the team opted to let Howard walk away in free agency and neglected to add to the position in the draft. Despite showing modest interest in a couple of veterans, the Eagles seem content on entering 2020 with the diminutive Boston Scott as their primary backup to Sanders. The enigmatic Corey Clement must stave off a pair of enticing young prospects for what will likely be the final spot. While the prospect of banking on a second-year player with limited tire tread might appear precarious, running backs coach Duce Staley believes Sanders is built to take advantage of the opportunity. “I don’t think you have to be careful with him because he’s one of the guys that’s hard to get a hit on,” said Staley in a Zoom interview with reporters. “I think you got to be careful with guys that can’t make people miss, so if you put a big workload on those type of guys – this is a violent league – and injuries, we know, can happen at any time. But if you got a guy that can make people miss and that’s kind of special like Miles, the injury [risk], it goes down a little bit. The percentage goes down.” And so begins the Sanders era in Philadelphia. If the team stays true to their word and turns Sanders loose this season, the 23-year-old possesses the explosive traits – along with improved patience and vision – to approach 1,700 all-purpose yards feasibly. – Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network. Catch the latest "Inside the Birds" podcast here: