“He’s ready to carry the load.”
That was Doug Pederson on Miles Sanders before the season.
Four carries in the second half of the 49ers game. Four carries in the second half of the Steelers game. Just nine carries before he got hurt in the Ravens game.
Sanders, who missed the Eagles’ last two games, was back at practice Wednesday, and as the Eagles embark on the second half of the season, it’s crucial that Pederson breaks out of this pattern of flat-out forgetting about Sanders as games go on.
The kid is one of the most talented and most productive running backs in the NFL, and Pederson - just like his mentor Andy Reid two decades ago with Brian Westbrook - has developed this bad habit of using Sanders less and less as games go on.
And with a slumping quarterback, a passing game that’s been spotty and an offensive line that’s allowed the most sacks in the league, it makes no sense.
Sanders has played five games and has 71 rushing attempts, 434 rushing yards, a 6.1 average and three touchdowns.
He’s 30th in the league in carries and 16th in rushing yards.
That says it all.
Sanders has the 9th-most 1st-half carries in the league during the four games he played start to finish and the 24th-most 2nd-half carries.
Here’s how under-utilized the Eagles’ running game has been this year: They’re 5th in the league at 4.9 yards per carry but 28th in the league at 24 carries per game.
In fact, the Eagles are on pace to become only he 5th team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 to average 4.9 yards per carry but run the ball fewer than 400 times.
Not enough Miles.
This is a kid who's a threat to take any carry to the house. There have only been seven 70-yard runs in the NFL this year, and Miles has two of them.
The Steelers game is evidence why you keep feeding Sanders, even if he gets stuffed the first few carries.
They had the NFL’s No. 1-ranked ranked rush defense when they faced the Eagles, and they haven’t allowed a run over 30 yards before or since Miles lit them up for a 74-yard touchdown.
Then he takes off for another 74-yard run a week later against the Ravens and the No. 8-ranked run defense.
He’s that special.
But after getting 20 carries against the Rams and 18 against the Bengals (14 before overtime), his workload dropped to 13 vs. the 49ers, 11 vs. the Steelers and 9 before he got hurt on that 74-yarder in the middle of the third quarter in Pittsburgh.
So he hasn't had more than 14 carries at the end of the fourth quarter since Week 2.
If the Eagles were lighting it up through the air, OK, you could kind of understand it.
But they’re 27th in passing yards, 31st in passing yards per play, 29th in interceptions, last in sacks.
Even Reid runs the ball these days more than Pederson. Five times more per game. And he’s got Pat Mahomes.
Pederson was asked Wednesday what he can do the second half of the season to get the offense going.
Guess what he said. You already know the answer.
“I mean, there's all kinds of things we can do, and I think play calling is one of them,” he said. “I can do things a little bit differently there. I can obviously maybe call a run or two a little bit more to help out a little bit.”
While we’re at it, Pederson also has to find a way to get Sanders back involved in the passing game.
Sanders averaged 3.1 catches and 32 receiving yards a game last year, and those numbers have dropped to 2.4 catches and just 18 yards per game this year.
Some might argue that Pederson just wants to keep Sanders healthy. But he was 100 percent during that stretch from the 49ers through the Ravens and got 33 carries in three games.
I don’t know how it’s possible to keep forgetting you have Miles Sanders on your team.
Unless Pederson remembers over these next eight weeks to not just get Sanders involved but keep him involved, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to get this offense out of the mess it’s in.