One storyline haunting the Philadelphia Eagles for two-plus seasons has been the health of Miles Sanders. The third-year running back always seems to find the injury report: hamstring, knee, ankle, you name it.
Sanders, a second-round pick in 2019, is an uber-talented rusher who has racked up 2,263 yards in 38 games. He’s averaging 5.0 yards-per-carry for his short career on 455 total rushes. The Penn State product is coming off a 120-yard performance against the New York Jets in Week 13. Yes, Sanders has flashed franchise back potential at times.
Is he the long-term answer, though? That remains to be seen. A player’s best availability is his availability, coupled with doing all the dirty things it takes to win. Sanders struggles mightily with dropped passes and fumbles – two big no-nos for a guy looking to tote the rock with the game on the line. He also ran out of bounds three different times this season when the Eagles were trying to run the clock out. These are rookie mistakes that cannot happen.
To be fair, Sanders hasn’t hidden from his shortcomings. He vowed to clean up the fumbles after doing it twice in Week 11, one of those led to a New Orleans Saints’ touchdown and the other stayed with the Eagles thanks to a penalty.
“It is something I am not supposed to do. My job is to protect the football and I failed to do that,” Sanders said on November 21. “I am not going to sit here and make excuses. It is not going to happen again after being back active and getting in a groove. I am going to keep this thing going and move forward.”
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3 Reasons to Trade Miles Sanders
1. Pay Increase Coming. Sanders has one year left on his four-year rookie deal and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2023. That means the Eagles are going to have to decide whether to pay him a lucrative extension. He’ll want somewhere in the range of four years and $48 million, like Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon. Is he that good? Probably not.
2. Eagles Have Replacement. It’s a small sample size, but Kenny Gainwell looks like he can do a lot of the same things. He’s slightly faster (4.47 in the 40 to Sanders’ 4.49); he’s a better pass-catcher out of the backfield; and he reads and reacts to his blockers better, especially on sharp cuts. The rookie also has three more touchdowns on 129 less offensive snaps.
3. One Injury Away. Sanders is literally one injury away from being untradeable. Plus, the average age for an NFL running back is 28.5. He’ll turn 25 in May which isn’t that old – until you start looking around the league’s other backfields. Ezekiel Elliott (26) is fighting off Tony Pollard (24) in Dallas, while AJ Dillon (23) is already stealing touches from Aaron Jones (26) in Green Bay.
3 Reasons to Keep Miles Sanders
1. Best RB on Eagles Roster. No one has ever questioned Sanders’ talent. His 5.0 yards-per-carry is the fourth-best in the entire NFL since 2019. He’s also a big play waiting to happen with 26 plays of 20 yards or more since his rookie year. He clearly has more upside than Boston Scott and Jordan Howard while Gainwell continues to develop.
2. He’s a Good Blocker. He has blown up quite a few would-be pass rushers in pass protection. Just ask Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo about that. Or Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons. That’s the hardest thing for a young back to learn. It was something that former assistant coach Duce Staley prioritized.
3. Team-First Player. There is no player on the Eagles’ roster who has more of a right to complain than Sanders. He has been severely under-utilized going back to Doug Pederson’s tenure. Yet throughout every experiment – remember Kerryon Johnson? – the quiet, unassuming rusher has preached patience. He has never once lobbied for more carries, even when it was obvious he needed to be a bigger part of the offense.