Remember when Miles Sanders fumbled the ball twice in a five-play span against the Lions?
That seems like an eternity ago.
On Sunday against the Bears, with the game on the line, Sanders had the last two carries of the game to set up Jake Elliott’s 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter of the 22-14 win. Sure, Jordan Howard was banged up by then, but the Eagles trusted Sanders in a crucial moment and he didn’t let them down.
“They drafted me for a reason,” Sanders said. “I’m coming here every day, getting better and when they call my name, I’m going to go out there and execute.”
The Eagles’ faith in Miles Sanders has already paid off and it looks like it’s going to continue to pay off.
Sure, Howard might be the bell cow runner at certain points, but the Eagles never benched Sanders when he was struggling earlier in the season. They just gave him a different role and he’s been getting better and better. In the last two wins before the bye, Sanders accounted for 191 yards from scrimmage. Only Howard has more in those two games (194).
Early in the season, we saw flashes of Sanders’ ability, but now we’re seeing more consistency from the second-round rookie.
“I think each week he's just learning from the week before,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Just learning and watching the tape and Duce (Staley) has done a great job of coaching him up and seeing the things that he can benefit moving forward with. We're finding different ways to utilize him, whether it's in an empty package or in a backfield with Jordan or running routes.
“So I think that consistency is just coming from the more he plays and the more he's seeing himself on film and making the corrections.”
Sanders, 22, has been the most explosive piece of the Eagles’ offense through nine games. And without DeSean Jackson for possibly the rest of the season, the Eagles are going to need him to continue to rely on him as they make their playoff push coming off the bye.
Without Jackson, it seems like the Eagles are going to have to use more 12 and maybe even 21 personnel to generate offense. That means that Sanders is going to have to provide chunk plays for an offense that otherwise might not have them.
The Eagles have 12 plays of 30-plus yards this year and Sanders has accounted for seven of them (5 catches, 2 runs). Across the NFL, just Stefon Diggs (9) and D.J. Chark (8) have more. And no other player has at least two receiving and rushing like Sanders does.
It wasn’t a smooth beginning to his NFL career, but give credit to the Eagles for sticking with the rookie and to Sanders for getting better.
“I learned a lot about myself,” Sanders said. “I’m very hard on myself. I don’t think anyone is more critical on myself than me. Working with Duce, he sees a lot in me. He appreciates me coming in every day and just trying to get better, wanting to get better. Everyone else appreciates that too.”
The NFL season is a long one and, remember, Sanders had just one season at Penn State as a starter. In 2018, Sanders played in 13 games. But since then, he had to prepare for the draft and the combine, then learn a new playbook, go to minicamp and training camp and then into the season.
The rookie wall can be a real thing for some players.
“I feel good,” Sanders said heading into the week off. “Got a bye week to get my body right, my mind right and get on this next stretch.”
The Eagles are going to need him.
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