The sneak preview of the Jordan Howard-Miles Sanders hybrid backfield has been put on hold again. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson announced the rookie running back will miss this week’s entire three-day minicamp.
Sanders, a second-round draft pick out of Penn State, has been dealing with a bad hamstring all spring and missed nine practices last week during the team’s OTAs. The news went from bad to worse considering the rookie won’t see his first action until the Eagles gather for training camp in July.
According to Pederson, they are just being extra cautious with Sanders. Assistant head coach (and running backs coach) Duce Staley has been “grilling” him in the classroom and no one anticipates his role being diminished moving forward. Still, the lack of reps at this point could be critical for him establishing chemistry with his new teammates.
“Obviously it hurts a little bit that he’s not getting the physical reps,” Pederson told reporters. “But I don’t want to risk him any further. We’ll wait until camp and get him out there. He’s getting a lot of mental reps, [Duce Staley] is grilling him and drilling him in the classroom.”
Sanders will join fellow running back Corey Clement on the injured list. Clement is dealing with a knee issue and won’t participate in minicamp, either. With those two not on the field, that should mean plenty of looks for bubble players. Guys like Boston Scott, Wendall Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams will need to take full advantage of their opportunity at additional snaps. Howard is entrenched as the starter, for now.
On Monday, Staley admitted to reporters that Sanders’ injury is “significant.” He followed it up by saying that the Eagles’ are comfortable with a backfield-by-committee approach, pointing out the Eagles really haven’t had a feature back since LeSean McCoy left town.
“We haven’t had that one guy since Shady [McCoy],” Staley told reporters. “And, with the type of backfield we have now, we’re going to share the ball. And these guys understand that. If you’re going out there, and your number is called, you just go out there and do the best you can during that play. Don’t worry about the course of the game or how often your number is going to be called. Just take advantage of your number being called during that time.”
Taking into account the Eagles’ offensive line is tops in the league in the run-blocking department, this shouldn’t be a glaring issue. The bigger concern was Sanders could have added an extra dimension with his explosive speed and shifty lateral movement. Hopefully, the rookie gets on the field soon and shows what he can do.
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