Nick Sirianni brings “non-stop energy” during every single meeting for the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s been his calling card since that first press conference and now he’s dialing it in even more at spring practices.
Miles Sanders relayed an anecdote on Thursday where Sirianni recited his high school slogan. The new coach went up to the 24-year-old running back and dropped an enthusiastic “Woody High” in his ear. No one knows what that means except for former students in the Pittsburgh area.
“Coach Sirianni, the thing I love about him is he’s very family-oriented,” Sanders told reporters. “He’s trying to get to know the players before all the football stuff. He came up to me yesterday and surprised me with my high school slogan. I didn’t even know anybody knew that. That was pretty cool to me.”
Making that personal connection is important. Sanders was an accomplished rusher at Woodland High School before taking his talents to Penn State. He has racked up 1,685 yards on 343 carries over his first two NFL seasons while totaling 12 touchdowns. With the league expanding to 17 games, Sanders expects those numbers to jump up significantly in 2021. He revealed he’s been taking better care of his body this offseason as a way to avoid injury, too.
“More games, more yards,” Sanders said. “I’m focused on playing all 17 games. I don’t like missing games, four games [in 2020] was way too many [to miss] especially for them being two or three divisional games, that don’t sit right with me.”
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Sanders Remembers Duce Staley, Talks Jemal Singleton
The Eagles brought in Jemal Singleton to coach the running backs following Duce Staley’s departure. The Air Force alum replaces a Philly icon in Staley who was a fixture in the Eagles’ organization for almost two decades. Sanders said it was sad to see Staley go and wished him luck in Detroit.
“It’s definitely difficult. I’d been lying if I said it wasn’t,” Sanders said. “But it’s a business, and that’s exactly what he would say. Honestly. He didn’t want to leave either. I’m pretty sure he would tell you he didn’t want to leave either but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.”
Meanwhile, Sanders started laughing when asked to compare Staley and Singleton. He complimented both men for having a ton of energy, then tried to better explain their contrasting styles. He called Staley “goofier” and his energy seemed to amp up when he was angry, whereas Singleton wears his emotions all the time.
“I love Coach Singleton,” Sanders said. “His energy is through the roof. His energy is definitely through the roof.”
More Committed to the Run, More Screen Passes
No one is quite sure what the Eagles’ offense will look like under Sirianni. Sanders attempted to peel back the curtain on that mystery on Thursday, hinting at a hybrid version of what Sirianni ran last year in Indianapolis married with Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.
“It’s very similar to everything we did last year, just the terminology is different and the schemes and concepts,” Sanders said. “Overall, I love the whole offense the way it’s being taught to us. Everybody is learning the offense. Coaches, too.
“And that’s what’s so cool about this whole situation right now. Everybody is learning the offense together and I think that’s a plus for us because if we all learn it together, I think we’ll play together well.”
Sanders remains the bellcow running back in Philly, but there will be a heavy emphasis on the screen game. Sirianni likes to use the ground game to set up the aerial attack. Everything working in tandem, marinating like a chunky grid-iron stew.
“We like to start it off with a strong run game and then feed off the play action and screens,” Sanders said. “Everything marinates with everything else.”
The Eagles added Kerryon Johnson in free agency and drafted Kenneth Gainwell in the fifth round. They also have Boston Scott and Jordan Howard. It’s a stacked backfield. So what exactly is Sanders’ role going to be?
“I see my role doing whatever I can to get a W each game,” Sanders said. “To make the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Win the division first.”