Miles Sanders ended his preseason experience with four offensive snaps. He rushed two times for 13 yards. That was it. The Philadelphia Eagles took a cautious approach with their dynamic feature back this summer.
Sanders, who missed four games in 2020, didn’t seem to mind the light workload. Head coach Nick Sirianni made it a top priority to keep his starters healthy for Week 1. Mission accomplished. The Penn State product expressed appreciation for the safe-over-sorry philosophy when he met with reporters prior to Wednesday’s practice.
“I feel amazing,” Sanders said. “I took a different approach on my offseason workouts, too. And definitely with the way training camp is going on, how they do it now to just keep us fresh, I feel amazing. I think everybody else feels good, too.”
That’s a good sign considering the way injuries have ravished the Eagles’ locker room in recent years. Sanders missed 2020 training camp with a hamstring injury, then sat out the season opener. He missed two more games after suffering a knee patella sprain in Week 6, plus the Week 17 regular-season finale. Now he enters the 2021 campaign feeling the freshest he’s felt in a long time. Credit a tweaked offseason routine.
“Instead of waiting to get in shape, I just stayed in shape as soon as the season was over,” Sanders said. “You know, conditioning, running … getting a good heart rate up throughout the whole year and it’s been paying off well for me during camp.”
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Sanders Looking to Snap 1,000-Yard Drought
The Eagles haven’t seen a running back surpass 1,000 yards in a single season since LeSean McCoy did it in 2014. That’s six straight seasons without a home-run hitter. It’s time to bust the streak and Sanders is the perfect guy to do it, although the 212-pounder isn’t changing his approach.
“Don’t need to change nothing,” Sanders said. “Just do my job and do it at a high level, that’s really what I’m focused on. Do everything that I’ve been doing just at a higher level.”
Sanders has been the closest – and arguably the most explosive – of the post-Shady contenders. He tallied 867 rushing yards last season after racking up 816 yards in his rookie year. And it would be a fitting passing of the torch from McCoy to Sanders, two Pennsylvania natives who grew up roughly three hours from each other.
Scoring Points, Protecting the Football
No one knows what to expect from the 2021 Eagles’ offense. The lack of preseason reps, combined with vanilla looks in games, leaves them as football’s greatest mystery – up there with Pete Carroll throwing at the one-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX.
But ask Sanders what he sees as the offense’s identity and it’s an easy answer.
“Scoring a lot of points,” Sanders said. “And protecting the football.”
Sanders said the Eagles practiced ball security so much that he had nightmares about it. Coaches instructed defensive players to attack it like a whack-a-mole game and strip it out by any means necessary. That Fort Knox attention to detail – the Eagles finished 30th in giveaways last season at 1.8 per game – coupled with Jalen Hurts’ athleticism should be fun to watch.
“I believe we can be very dynamic especially with a quarterback like Jalen,” Sanders said. “He’s going to free up a lot of gaps because defenses have to key on him. Defenses don’t want him to beat them with his legs and I’m pretty sure they’re going to have certain stuff to keep that from happening. It’s just going to make stuff better for the passing game and for the running backs when he hands off, too.”