Eagles fans disagree about a lot. If you try hard enough, you’ll find a way to argue about what color the sky is this morning. However, if there’s one thing that the majority agree on, it’s that their team should run the ball. It’s become an age-old sentiment but only because it’s always relevant. The good news is that Nick Sirianni heard the bellowing cries on Sunday. The bad news is that it may just foreshadow an early exit for Miles Sanders.
After a game against the Dallas Cowboys that saw the Penn State product carry the rock on just two occasions, people were keen to see what a matchup against the worst run defense in the league had in store. Playing in 64% of snaps, he carried the ball 7 times for just 13 yards. Unfortunately for Sanders, it was another Eagles running back who stole the limelight.
Playing in nearly half of the offensive snaps, versatile rookie Kenny Gainwell carried the ball 3 times for 31 yards, but added a further 58 yards through the air on 6 receptions. Through the opening four games, it’s become inherently clear that Nick Sirianni prefers his running backs to be able to catch out of the backfield – something Sanders has struggled with massively ever since his rookie year.
This situation feels eerily similar to what we saw in Chicago a few years ago. Jordan Howard was setting the league ablaze with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons. But when a new Head Coach entered the fray, he was immediately drawn to the versatile upside of young running back Tarik Cohen.
Cohen looked far more comfortable in Nagy’s pass-heavy offense and started to snatch snaps away from Howard, who was approaching his contract year. Cohen then exploded for a 725-yard receiving campaign on top of his 444 rushing yards and although Howard still put up nearly 1,000 yards, his 3.7 YPC paled in comparison to the more explosive weapon.
As we all know, the Bears cashed in on Jordan Howard by trading him to the Eagles and drafted a more versatile downhill option in the way of David Montgomery, keeping contracts cheap and upside prominent.
Miles Sanders has far more upside than Jordan Howard did at that time, but the cracks are beginning to show. After finally getting a carry in the fourth quarter and breaking away for a big gain, Sanders spiked the spall down onto the ground and stared into the eyes of his Head Coach.
He feels that he deserves the ball more. His teammates have alluded to it. But with his contract year approaching and the rapid rise of a rookie who can do it all in Sirianni’s pass-happy offense, one has to wonder whether Miles Sanders is playing on borrowed time.
The Eagles aren’t exactly in a position to pay Sanders a big bag and it may well make sense to cash in while his value is high. It is pure speculation at this stage but if Sanders continues to drop time to Gainwell who makes the most of his opportunities, there may be much more weight being added to the argument throughout the remainder of the season.
It all comes down to how Nick Sirianni wants his offense to run…or not run.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)