With all of the changes and added pieces to the roster this season, one group has been buried underneath all of the noise for some odd reason. Two years ago the Eagles relied heavily upon three running backs to help lead them to the promised land. At first, the running game was not a focal point for the Eagles. Many didn’t agree with Coach Doug Pederson’s committee approach, instead. pining for a workhorse back. It led to the likes of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi calling out the coaching staff for not calling running plays. Doug Pederson listened and responded to the criticism.
in 2017, From weeks two through twelve, the Eagles averaged 162.1 yards per game in rushing with only one player at the time being the consistent contributor, LeGarrette Blount. Now the Eagles RB group has found themselves in a similar position. This offseason, Howie focused on recreating this group after a disastrous 2018 campaign. Last season, the team lost both Darren Sproles and Corey Clement to season-ending injuries which led to Josh Adams being the lone bright spot for the team.
This time around, the Eagles brass has refocused their attention to this group once more. The Eagles traded a conditional sixth-round pick for the Bears’ star running back, Jordan Howard, who was weirdly an outcast in Matt Nagy’s offense. The funny thing here is that Pederson and Nagy both run the same style offenses.
After investing that pick into the acquisition of Howard, the Eagles then drafted Penn State running back, Mile Sanders. A player that fans wanted the Eagles to draft until they drafted him. After the pick, it seemed as if fans and media alike were split on using the 53rd overall pick on Sanders. It was the right move by the team. In Miles Sanders, the team gets what all of Philadelphia has been craving since the departure of LeSean McCoy. They’ve drafted a hard nose back who’s shifty enough to make the defense miss their tackle attempts almost every time. Also, Sanders doesn’t have the wear and tear that the majority of the running backs in his class do.
When Sanders decided on going to Penn State, he was considered to be a top-25 overall prospect. After joining the Nittany Lions, Sanders, unfortunately, fell to number two in the Lions depth chart due to former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. After Barkley was drafted in 2018. Sanders took full advantage in showing the football world what he can do by running for 1,274 yards on 220 carries while scoring 9 touchdowns. In that season, Sanders not only showed how he can make players miss, but also showed how tough of a runner he is by averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Although Sanders is off to a bit of a slow start for his pro career due to a hamstring injury that he’s been nursing, I fully expect him to be the main contributor to this offense but not in the workhorse sense.
Pederson doesn’t believe in having a workhorse back for many reasons. One, in particular, is the idea of extracting all the abilities of each back by implementing them into different scenarios throughout the game. This season, the Eagles will likely line up with Sanders, Howard, and Clement as the main three backs in this rotation.
Clement has shown flashes of greatness in the passing game as seen in Super Bowl 52. Clement caught 4 passes for 100 yards and a very crucial touchdown. He’s showed what he can do in space and won’t be an afterthought in this offense as long as the injury hasn’t hindered his growth.
Jordan Howard will be the bulldozer that this team has so desperately needed since the departure of Blount. Howard has shown that he can be relied upon in any down and any scenario. He doesn’t possess blazing speed but his ability to truck defenders and get into open space has made him a standout for the past 3 years. In those 3 years, Howard has surpassed 1,000 rushing yards, leading him to be one of the most productive backs in the game behind Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley.
As for Miles Sanders, well the expectations are high. Many Eagles fans think very highly of him as do the Eagles coaches. I, myself, was a huge fan of the Sanders pick because I knew he’d be the best fit for the offense. I believe he might just be the second coming of LeSean McCoy but in a better fashion. With him being in the same division as former teammate Saquon Barkley, the motivation is there. Sanders has been unfairly tied to Barkley in every conversation. Its time for the former Nittany Lion to pave his own way and what better place to do it than in South Philly?
This group may be the secret ingredient that puts this Eagles team over the top. As long as they can provide the offense with the consistency it needs, I can’t see why the Eagles won’t have the best running back group in the league.