‘Humbled’ Playmaker Explains Role in Eagles’ Backfield

Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings Week 7

Getty Eagles running back Miles Sanders #26 is dealing with a knee injury.

There seems to be a growing sense that Miles Sanders isn’t being used nearly enough in Philadelphia. The Eagles hyped up their dynamic playmaker as a three-down back, saying “you put him and you let him go” in training camp and chose not to sign a big-name back to complement him in free agency.

Some thought that meant the team would run Sanders into the ground. But it hasn’t exactly worked out that way, with Doug Pederson mixing in a healthy dose of Boston Scott and, to a much lesser degree, Corey Clement. Sanders has carried the ball 86 times (30th-best) for 519 yards (14th-best) and three touchdowns. His gaudy 6.0 yards-carry ranks second-best among qualifying running backs. Remember, Sanders missed three games with a serious knee injury.

Could the second-year back out of Penn State be featured more? Sure. But Sanders won’t be “tripping” on the sideline or asking for a bigger workload anytime soon. He’s a team player, first and foremost.

“Honestly, not at all, y’all not going to get me. Sorry but I’m a team player,” Sanders told reporters on Thursday when he was asked if he wanted an increased workload. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes, when my number’s called I’m going to do what I do.”

“And when it’s not I’m going to do whatever I can do to help whoever else’s number is called,” Sanders said. “Whether it’s blocking, being the lead blocker or doing whatever. So I’m not ever questioning my workload or anything. I trust the coaches and the coaches trust me and that’s all it is.”

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Long History of Shared Backfields

Sanders doesn’t mind sharing touches in the backfield. He never had a problem with it in high school or college, assuming the football team is winning games. The mature-beyond-his-years rusher was part of a two-back system at Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh where he shared the rock with Jo-El Shaw.

Nicknamed “Thunder & Lightning,” the duo rushed for more than 1,000 yards during their senior year. They were both All-Star running backs in the state of Pennsylvania and went on to play Division-1 college ball.

“If you guys can believe or not, in high school I was in a two-back system,” Sanders said. “Me and a friend I went to high school with, very talented running back. Then at Penn State I got humbled a little bit. I didn’t play for two years even when I was playing we had running backs rotate in.”

Everyone knows why he played sparingly for the Nittany Lions. Sanders was stuck behind future No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley for two years. He took over the lead back role after Barkley graduated and proceeded to rush for 1,274 yards, good enough for 15th-best in the country.

The Eagles drafted Sanders in the second round (53rd overall) in 2019 and eased him into the offense. He saw action in all 16 regular-season games, often as a backup behind starter Jordan Howard.

“I’m pretty used to sharing the ball. I’m all about winning, that’s all I care about,” Sanders said. “I’m not going to be over there tripping about not getting the rock. If we’re winning, I don’t care. That’s just how I am.”

Feeling Good, Getting Healthy on Offense

He rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries last week against the Giants in his first game back since Oct. 18. There was no noticeable rust or lingering effects from the freak knee injury that sidelined him.

On Thursday, Sanders told reporters he “felt good” after the game and hopes to build off that one-game momentum. The Eagles are also sending reinforcements his way, mainly in the form of starting left guard Isaac Seumalo who has been out since Sept. 21.

“I feel good coming out of that game, first game back,” Sanders said. “And we got some guys coming back. We got Isaac possibly coming back this week. That’s going to be a major plus. It’s basically like getting the band back together. All they’re [the offensive line] missing is Big B [Brandon] Brooks.”

The biggest thing for Sanders right now is just continuing to work on his chemistry with Carson Wentz. The two sometimes put in extra work on a side field in between special-teams periods at practice. He’s also been hitting the JUGS machine hard to make up for lost reps.

“Still working at it, trying to get it right,” Sanders said about his timing with Wentz. “No matter if it’s good or bad, we’re still working on it. And it’s not just the running backs, it’s the receivers, too. He’s over there with the receivers and tight ends, get some free extra stuff where we’re over there getting the timing right with him.”

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