The Eagles need to trust in Miles Sanders more in 2021
One of the most frustrating issues of the Eagles 2020 season was the lack of attention towards Miles Sanders. Eagles fans were on board to increase production for the dominant Penn State back. Sanders’ jump in production from 2019 to 2020 was fantastic, but you wouldn’t recognize it on the stat sheet at first.
It is unclear why Doug Pederson or Duce Staley didn’t give Sanders more carries. Miles was hurt to start the year, so many believed it was to get his conditioning up to speed the first few weeks. But as the season progressed, nothing changed. Miles only averaged about two more carries this season from last. Several key games were lost where Sanders dominated in the first half only to get two to three carries in the second half for unknown reasons.
Looking deeper at the numbers, it continues to baffle me why they didn’t utilize him far more. Amongst all running backs, Miles was fifth in yards per carry and seventh in yards per game. Looking at carries, Sanders was 21st in carries averaging only 13 carries a game. Hopefully, under a new regime, these numbers can be much larger.
Observing the film and his play, you can see how much Sanders has grown. Two of the most significant issues from Sanders since being drafted look to be almost non-existent. Early in his Eagles career, Miles never trusted his blockers. More often than not, he would bounce runs outside instead of depending on his blockers inside and letting it develop. Bouncing it out would take a four to seven-yard play and only make it a two-yard game. Since then, that trust has grown, and Miles is a significant threat inside the tackles.
Brandon Brooks returning along with a full season of Jordan Mailata amongst the rest of the group will do great things for Sanders. There was so much inconsistency in the o-line this season. Constant changes had a lot of impact on their ability to block in the run game properly. The return of All-Pro Brandon Brooks with Lane Johnson fully healthy and a full season of Andre Dillard or Jordan Mailata will open up so many gaps for Sanders.
The primary concern out of Penn State was what he could do as a receiving threat. In Penn State’s packages, he never lined up like that, and when he did, it wasn’t that impressive. In his rookie season, Sanders blew that out of the water pulling in over 500 yards receiving. In 2020 this took a dip down to only 200 on ten fewer targets. Butterfingers have started to develop for Miles, but some of those were also poorly placed throws. In 2019 Sanders missed 13 of his 63 targets, while in 2020, he missed 24 of his 52 targets.
Alongside that, the biggest concern for Miles is his ability to hold onto the football. Fumbling was his most prominent issue in college by far, and it has carried over to the pros without much improvement. Compared to the rest of the league, Miles was third in fumbles by running backs with four and had two his rookie season. Like they always say, ball security is job security.
Miles has a bright future with the Eagles. Miles can solidify himself as the offensive centerpiece this season with the quarterback situation on its head. He can’t do it alone, though. The new coaching staff needs to instill trust into the 23-year-old that he can get the job done. Combining his 2020 production with a far healthier offensive line will lead the way for a career year for Sanders.
Mandatory Credit: Chris Szagola AP