After an up and down start for the Philadelphia Eagles, rookie tailback Miles Sanders is finally beginning to hit his stride and could be primed for a second-half explosion just like Alvin Kamara’s in 2017.
It’s unfair to expect Sanders to become the next Kamara, who’s one of the best running backs in the league, since he’s only just a rookie with eight games under his belt. But their situations are quite comparable. Sanders’ usage and yardage through the first half are awfully similar to how the Saints used Kamara in his first season.
Through eight contests, the dual-threat back has racked up 568 total yards the second most for any rookie this season. Those first-half splits are just the tip of the iceberg though.
It starts with the coaching staff who has been putting him in a position to succeed early. They’ve been limiting his carries per game while involving him heavily in the passing game to showcase his best qualities. Sanders has been showing his big-play ability all season long and that starts with his explosion and open-field elusiveness.
In fact, his big-play ability for the Eagles, despite his lack of big volume touches has him with eight plays of 25 yards or more which is tied for fifth-most in the league.
Through his last six games, Sanders has been on fire racking up 241 rushing yards on just 45 carries for an impressive 6.8 yards per carry. That obviously culminated with his 65-yard touchdown run against the Bills.
In those same games, Sanders has snagged 16 balls for 263 yards and has quickly become a big threat receiving option for the Eagles. You put that all those numbers together and Sanders is averaging 84 total yards a game in his last six contests. Which begs the question why aren’t the Eagles giving him more touches?
Philadelphia, whether by design or not, are following the blueprint of the New Orleans Saints in 2017 when Alvin Kamara broke into the league as a third-round pick.
Like Jordan Howard, they had Mark Ingram handle most of the rushing duties and let Kamara be a change of pace back while opening him up in the passing game.
Kamara was limited to 52 rushing attempts in his first eight games for 301 yards which allowed Mark Ingram to handle the ball 123 times. The Eagles have been sheltering Sanders the same mould giving Howard 100 rushing attempts.
Although Sanders has had more rushing attempts through his first eight games, the Saints made Kamara more involved in the passing game. Kamara had 29 receptions for 341 yards while Sanders is at a respectable 19 catches for 274 yards.
Of course Like Ingram in 2017, Howard earned those carries that the Eagles have been giving him. But at the same time, this allows Sanders to get more confident in his first year by not asking him to do too much. That plan allowed Kamara to rack up 1,554 total yards on his rookie campaign with 417 rushing yards, 485 receiving yards and, eight touchdowns in his final eight games.
It would be unfair to expect Sanders to reach those lofty first season totals Kamara reached, but Sanders has shown over the last six games that he has the makings of a future star.
If you take his 84 yards per game over the last six contests that would put Sanders at a 1,240-yard pace over his final eight games.
A lot can change in that time frame for Sanders and the Eagles but the signs early on are more than encouraging.
“Each week gets better.” Doug Pederson explained earlier this week. “I think he learned from his first time out to Sunday, and I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been most impressed with him, is how well he’s been able to take those corrections from [Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs] Duce [Staley] and from the tape and apply that to practice and apply that into the next game.”
“You saw it Sunday. It really is beginning to manifest in the game where he’s seeing that hole a little bit sooner, making that cut and getting positive yards.”
Could Miles Sanders be the next big dual-threat running back in the NFL? Either way, Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman nailed this draft pick and if the Eagles are going to make another big run into the playoffs, Sanders will be a huge reason why.
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports