Miles Sanders should be the Eagles’ No. 1 running back, but the team is holding him back.
Miles Sanders had a nice rookie season in 2019, with 818 rushing yards (4.6 yards per carry) and 50 catches for 509 yards. A surge down the stretch points to a big role for him this season, but after rumored interest in Carlos Hyde Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer has reported the Eagles are interested in Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy.
Sanders did not play 50 percent of the offensive snaps in a game last year until Week 11 (after Philadelphia’s bye, however coincidentally). From Week 11-Week 16, removing Week 17 when he left early injured, he had 94 carries for 430 yards, 25 catches for 205 and four total touchdowns. More narrowly, he averaged 105.9 total yards per game on 19.9 touches per contest.
Jordan Howard was out injured in the second half of last season, which opened up time for Boston Scott. He was just fine as the No. 2 to Sanders, with at least 65 total yards in three of four games from Week 14-17 (more than 100 twice). Corey Clement was brought back this offseason for depth.
What can Miles Sanders provide for the Eagles?
The Eagles have not had a running back top 193 carries in a season in Doug Pederson’s four seasons as head coach, and since McCoy in 2014 (312 carries) no back on the team has topped 193 carries in a season. So using a committee backfield and churning through running backs is the norm, and it’s a formula that has generally worked.
At first glance physically, Sanders does not look particularly stout in the way we think of a workhorse back. But he comes in at 2011 pounds (standing 5-foot-11), can hold up in pass blocking (h/t to Rotoworld’s Ian Hartitz) and he’s an efficient and proficient pass catcher. So the idea of actively taking him off the field for someone decidedly aged like Freeman or McCoy seems ludicrous.
Other than a significant injury, nothing should keep Sanders from 200 carries and a push toward 250 touches this year. But it appears Doug Pederson will be the something that holds his young running back down, even if it’s to the ultimate detriment of the entire offense for Freeman, McCoy or some other name-brand veteran back to be signed and used.