Miles Sanders could be the heartbeat of the Eagles offense in 2020


Since 2016, Eagles fans have cried out for the team to do the one thing – run the ball. In 2020, this particular request might not just be the focal point in the team’s offense but their success may well depend on it. Fortunately for the Eagles, they have stumbled upon a local stud that they so boldly drafted in the second round last offseason in the way of Miles Sanders.

The story so far

Sanders started out the year in Jordan Howard’s shadow, developing under the radar. He ended it with an explosion of production and elusiveness, breaking two Eagles rookie records that were formally held by DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy.

We’re cautiously approaching the sophomore campaign for the former Penn State product and things are looking up. While many believed that the Eagles would embrace the running back by committee approach that Pederson has become so known for, Duce Staley has come out and shut down that possible notion. When asked about the workload that Miles Sanders will receive, Staley said

“I’m excited about Miles. I’m excited about him handling the full load. I don’t see Miles as a guy that you have to monitor his touches,” Assistant Head Coach Duce Staley went on to say, “I think you put him in, and you let him go.”

That’s exactly what the Eagles did last season and it paid off big time for them. Sanders went on to record 1,327 total scrimmage yards with 818 of them being rushing yards. A more eye-opening detail about his workload last season is that Sanders had the largest snap-share of any Eagles running back in the Doug Pederson era with 229 total touches. Of the 229 touches, 179 of them were rushing attempts which is also another high. The second-closest back was LeGarrette Blount, who had 173 carries back in 2017.

To infinity and beyond

When asked about Sanders’ workload entering this season, Staley explained why he’s prepared to double down on the explosive rusher.

“I don’t think you have to be careful with him because he’s one of the guys that is hard to get a hit on. I think you’ve got to be careful with the guys that can’t make people miss.”

Since 2016 the Eagles have featured 16 different running backs, including Miles Sanders, alongside Carson Wentz and the offense. Don’t remember all 16? Let’s take a look:

Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Boston Scott, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner, Ryan Mathews, Byron Marshall, Terrell Watson.

There’s been no stability there what’s so ever and it comes from having backs who can’t make people miss.

Sure, Darren Sproles was one of a kind and Blount ran over defenders better than anyone on this list but the others just didn’t have anything that made them stand out in this offense consistently. Now with Miles Sanders, the Eagles can do two things with one player. They can finally have a focused player in their run game that can relieve Wentz from having to do too much, as well as someone who can bleed out into the passing game and make magic happen.

The wildcard

The Eagles have a franchise QB that’s entering a big season. Wentz has to stay healthy and play in the playoffs in order to silence his critics. That’s the only way. Howie Roseman revamped the offensive staff for a reason. They added names that you’re unfamiliar with, but its the one name that you’re familiar with that will make the biggest impact. Who on this staff has coached running backs like Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy while working under Andy Reid with Doug Pederson not too far away? Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg was with the Eagles from 2007-2012.

History repeating itself

So, why does that matter? It matters because, in 2007, Brian Westbrook had a phenomenal season with Marty around. Westbrook averaged 18.5 rushing attempts per game, 6 receptions per game which led to 24.5 total touches. He also went on to average 140 total yards per game. His total touches that season? 287. It was Westbrook’s only All-Pro season where he finished with 1,333 rushing yards, 771 receiving yards, and 12 total touchdowns.

Let’s take a look at LeSean McCoy’s numbers now under Marty during the 2011 season. McCoy averaged 18.2 rushing attempts per game, 3.2 receptions per game for a total of 21.2 touches per game. Does this sound familiar? McCoy finished that season as a First-team All-Pro just like Westbrook. He broke out for 1,309 rushing yards, 315 receiving yards, and 20 total touchdowns on 321 total touches. McCoy also had back to back seasons with 1,600+ scrimmage yards under Mornhinweg.

It’s no coincidence that the Eagles brought back Mornhinweg this offseason in particular. The team finally has a back that’s capable of handling a full workload and they need to find a way to keep their QB fresh and healthy. Now, this offensive staff will have their hands full in talent at almost every position but the offense may actually start to run through the run game and Miles Sanders could be the equalizer.

Perhaps this upcoming season is the onewhere we see Pederson and company let go of all of their limitations from previous years and unleash a unique offense that’s able to win in the air or the ground.

Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports