‘Tis the season to be jolly – and Miles Sanders is making a lot of people look jolly stupid right now. The 24-year-old running back is snapping ankles, smashing records and shattering bad takes. Anybody skeptical about his skills will have to eat humble pie this holiday. Those who find fault with his fit for the Eagles’ offense will be feeling foolish this yule. And people who suggest he’s ill-suited for the city may find a dunce’s cap under the Christmas tree this year.
Sanders is humiliating his critics. And here are three reasons why.
The proof of the pudding
Miles Sanders has been eating this festive season – without doing an annoying spoon-to-mouth celebration. On Tuesday night, he became the first Eagles running back to have 100+ rushing yards in consecutive games since LeSean McCoy in 2014. His 131-yard performance also made him the 10th RB in NFL history to rush for 700+ yards at an average of 4.5+ yards per carry in each of his first three seasons.
The upcoming game against the Giants has provoked the traditional comparisons between Sanders and Saquon. Basically, they’re both great players. This season, Barkley has 429 rushing yards and 248 receiving yards in 10 games, while Sanders has 709 rushing yards and 155 receiving yards in 11 games. Over their entire careers, Saquon has 2,212 yards from scrimmage compared to 3,255 for his Penn State pal. Both players have scored 12 TDs.
All in all, Sanders has seized his place among the top players for his position in the present and the past. Anybody who still doubts his ability should set a New Year’s resolution to brush up their math skills.
A perfect package
Some fans and analysts have also suggested Sanders is the wrong fit for Sirianni’s offense. Jordan Howard’s power raised questions about Sanders’ slight frame and shifty style. And with Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell adding wriggly elusiveness and reliable catching, it seemed like the Eagles had a cheap and productive group – so wouldn’t miss #26 when he was injured or if he left the locker room forever.
Sanders’ productivity in recent weeks has silenced those doubts. He’s now clearly the team’s top running back, taking around 50 percent of snaps in the last two games. Conditions are perfect for the Pittsburgh native to put up impressive numbers in the remaining games this season. Since Week 8, the Eagles lead the NFL in rushing yards per game and explosive plays. They have also rushed for 1,569 yards before contact this season, which is more than 16 teams have rushed in total. With such an incredibly dominant and athletic offensive line (with Brandon Brooks potentially returning soon), as well as a genuine dual-threat QB, Sanders will be feeling like a kid at Christmas right now.
Sanders has worried the keyboard warriors this week, after tweeting his opinion that spectators should stop booing players. Fans grabbed the chance to recycle hot takes about Terrell Owens, Ben Simmons and throwing snowballs at Santa. Some replies even suggested Sanders wasn’t tough enough for Philadelphia, despite enjoying a carefree life in the City of Brotherly Love for more than five years.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Sanders may be hoping to extend his period of residence in Philadelphia as he enters his contract year in 2022. Right now, he’s focusing on shaking off a quad injury in time to rack up a few yuletide yards against the Giants at the Linc on Sunday.
Tough turkey for the critics
Miles is mild-mannered. Sanders is softly-spoken. He has gone about his business without the fanfare that accompanies other RB1s in the NFC East. But while he still has a low profile among NFL running backs, the Eagles will be relying on Sanders to throw some big punches in the fight for a playoff wild card spot. If he can stay healthy, he’s an exciting talent who will have Eagles fans salivating and opposing defenses reaching for the comfort snacks. His critics, however, may find the Christmas cupboard bare.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire