Has Sirianni’s change of heart pushed Miles Sanders out in the cold?

NFL: OCT 18 Ravens at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 18: Philadelphia Eagles Running Back Miles Sanders (26) carries the ball in the first half during the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles on October 18, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Say what you want about the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles, but the past few weeks have shown that this team can grow under Nick Sirianni. His shift to a run-first offense has not only given the team a jolt of energy and production, but showed the world that he can make the necessary adjustments to make sure he’s putting his team in the best position to succeed. Unfortunately, it may come at the expense of Miles Sanders.

Sanders has endured a season burdened with frustration. His rookie year explosion feels like forever ago and after a quiet second year, Sanders became an afterthought in the Eagles offense. It felt like Sirianni would go through phases of refusing to use one of the most dynamic players on the team and running the ball simply wasn’t on the agenda.

Teammates vouched for Sanders, fans cried out to get the ball in his hands, and eventually Sirianni caved in. Against the Raiders, Sanders amassed 30 yards on 6 carries early on and it looked like we would finally be treated to a healthy dose of a running back who had spent most of the season sitting on the sidelines. But then it all changed.

Sanders went down with an ankle injury early on in the game and was later placed on IR. He should be eligible to return after the Denver game, but is his spot in the rotation now in jeopardy?

The bad news for Sanders is that Sirianni didn’t stop running the ball after losing the explosive running back, but instead doubled down. Jordan Howard was called up from the practice squad two weeks in a row and burst out of the gate for three touchdowns and 128 yards, looking like the running back Eagles fans saw destroy the Packers in 2019.

Howard is hitting the hole hard and Boston Scott is doing what Boston Scott does best – complementing a north/south runner with some elusive bounces to the outside. Sprinkle in some Kenny Gainwell and you have yourself a pretty nice, cheap, committee effort. This is the worst case scenario for Sanders.

It’s not like he was the running back of choice before the injury. After a game against the Dallas Cowboys that saw him carry the rock on just two occasions, people were keen to see what a matchup against the worst run defense in the league (Kansas City) had in store. Playing in 64% of snaps, he carried the ball 7 times for just 13 yards. Kenny Gainwell, meanwhile, tallied 89 scrimmage yards.

The Eagles didn’t seem too keen on using Miles Sanders consistently early on and with him now sidelined, the emergence of Jordan Howard is the worst thing that could possibly happen. The Eagles have a committee of three running backs who all bring something different to the table, arguably ticking the boxes Sanders would’ve otherwise filled, and making him expendable.

Offensive coordinator, Shane Steichen, didn’t exactly sound elated about the idea of Sanders returning.

Jordan is playing good football right now. When Miles comes back, we’ll cross that bridge when it gets there. But right now, we’re focused on Denver.

It’s important to note that Miles Sanders will be heading into a contract year when the season ends. If the Eagles believe that they can get similar levels of production out of a committee effort, then they may seek to trade Sanders during the offseason, cashing in while they can.

Oddly enough, the Chicago Bears did this with Jordan Howard a few years back after the breakout of Tarik Cohen and arrival of a new coaching staff. David Montgomery was drafted in his place as he was younger and wouldn’t be destined for a big payday anytime soon. The more time passes, the more likely it appears history is to repeat itself.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire