In a breakout season, a player needs to get 20-25 touches per game. In 2017, Eagles running back, Jay Ajayi, got 17 touches per game. In 2018, LeGarrette Blount got 19 touches per game. In 2019, it will be Miles Sanders getting the carries. Sanders has a “skinny” frame that allows him to run through a laundry list of defenders, but also has the speed and burst to get to the outside. With a fully-healthy offensive line providing security to both the running and passing game, Sanders will be able to get to the edge and turn the corner on defenders. In a PPR format, Sanders could be a top-10 running back in 2019.
The Eagles acquired running back Miles Sanders from the New England Patriots in a trade last season. Many were surprised by this, especially since they were unlikely to take a running back in the draft. However, this is a player that has been building up to this moment for a while. The NFL Draft isn’t the only part of the NFL Scouting Process that matters when it comes to evaluating players.
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Miles Sanders, the Philadelphia Eagles’ running back, has a strong case to make for a breakthrough season in 2021.
Nobody wants to hear it, however.
This is mainly due to the failure of similar predictions last offseason. After setting franchise rookie records for all-purpose yards (1,641) and yards from scrimmage (1,641), the 2019 second-round draft pick was a hot name in fantasy football. He was expected to make the jump to the upper echelon of backs in Year 2 after setting franchise rookie records for all-purpose yards (1,641) and yards from scrimmage (1,641). (1,327). Sanders, on the other hand, missed four games due to hamstring and knee ailments, finishing 15th in running yards (867), and tied for 25th in rushing touchdowns (25). (6).
Last season, he went from 50 receptions on 63 targets (79 percent catch rate) for 509 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 to 28 receptions on 52 targets (54 percent catch rate) for 197 yards and no touchdowns.
The show didn’t live up to the anticipation. Sanders has been flying under the radar this summer as a consequence of the Eagles’ low expectations, which are compounded by the fact that they are headed by a rookie quarterback and coach in Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni, who are coming off a 4-11-1 season.
However, a deeper examination shows why Sanders has breakout potential.
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Sanders, 24, missed Week 1 of last season’s season due to a hamstring injury he suffered during training camp. Then, in October, he injured his knee against the Baltimore Ravens and had to miss the following two weeks. He never seemed to be fully right. The Eagles established an NFL record by having 13 different offensive line combinations in the first 14 weeks due to a spate of injuries along the offensive line.
Sanders and the offensive line are in good shape going into the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 12. (1 p.m. ET, Fox). The offensive line includes three players over 30 years old in center Jason Kelce (33), guard Brandon Brooks (32) and right tackle Lane Johnson (31), but it has top-five potential if it can avoid injuries.
“Man, my trust in this offensive line is over the sky,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it or lie about it. With this O-line, we can perform a lot of unique things. They are aware of this, as is everyone else in the building. We’ll just go with the flow.”
Numbers that seem deceptively powerful
Sanders was fourth in the league in yards per carry (5.3), behind Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (5.6), Green Bay’s Aaron Jones (5.5), and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (5.3). (5.4).
He showed big-play potential, becoming the first Eagles player to score multiple 70-yard running touchdowns in a single season. He was also the first running back to break three 70-yard runs since Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, and Adrian Peterson did it in 2012.
When you add up Sanders’ two seasons, he’s in some pretty good company. Since 2019, he has generated the fourth most scrimmage yards per touch (5.7) among running backs with at least 300 touches, behind only Austin Ekeler (6.3), Alvin Kamara (5.8), and Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers (5.8). Over that time, he is fourth in the NFL in running average (4.9 yards per carry) and leads the league in rushing runs of 60 yards or more (4).
The Hurts component
Last season, Hurts and Sanders were partnered together for three games. (Sanders did not play in the season finale against the Washington Redskins.) Sanders averaged 103 yards from scrimmage in those three games, scoring three of his six running touchdowns.
Last season, the Eagles’ running backs, who included Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Miles Sanders (from left), were 24th in the league with 403 rushing attempts. Getty Images/Mitchell Leff
Hurts’ danger as a runner keeps defenders on their toes. Sanders also witnessed an increase in pass-catching efficiency, catching 69 percent of Hurts’ targets, compared to 49 percent when former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was at the helm.
“This year, we have a number of players that will have tremendous chances to accomplish unique things. Many men, I believe, have made significant leaps forward. And Miles, you know he’ll carry the rock, you know he’ll catch the ball out of the backfield, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do “Hurts explained. “He’s a big-time player who runs his tail off and is difficult to handle. It should be enjoyable.”
Sirianni’s system has yet to be fully unveiled, but there is reason to think it will be running-back friendly.
Sanders offered us a clue as to how it could seem.
“It’s pretty similar to college, just going from a pro-style to an RPO [run-pass option] system,” Sanders said, referring to his last year at Penn State, when he carried for 1,274 yards on 220 attempts (5.8 average) with nine touchdowns. “It’s fantastic. It’s simply about putting our athletes into space, having one-on-one matchups with certain guys, and letting us be ourselves.”
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Sirianni’s last position was offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts, who used a balanced offense. Last season, the Colts placed 10th in running attempts with 459, while Philadelphia ranked 24th with 403. In 2019, the Colts were fifth in the NFL in running attempts (471), while the Eagles were seventh (454). Jonathan Taylor, a running back with the Indianapolis Colts, was third in the league in rushing yards last season (1,169).
“Miles’ ability to play has undoubtedly impressed us. He’s a fantastic running back. Excited about what he’ll be able to do this year for our squad, “Sirianni said.
“We simply want to keep people fresh when it comes to [sharing playing time]. We’ll have a sub in place for Miles if he needs a break. Also, there are certainly things Miles can do in our passing game, but we also have some other backs, such as Kenny [Gainwell], who rotate in, and Boston [Scott] is doing a nice job of it as well.”
The X element
Sanders had an excellent training camp, displaying patience and next-level quickness through the hole. In the passing game, though, he struggled to keep the ball. Drops were commonplace, raising worries that his difficulties as a pass-catcher last season were more than a fluke.
Gainwell, on the other hand, excelled in that area as well, just as he did at Memphis. Gainwell has the finest hands among the Eagles’ running backs, according to Sanders.
If Sanders has problems early on, Gainwell and Scott will likely take on bigger responsibilities in the passing game, reducing Sanders’ snaps.
Lately, Sanders has been catching the ball with more regularity. If he can keep it up and avoid injuries, he’ll have a huge season ahead of him.
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