EAGLES

Sanders finally proving he's one of the NFL's best RBs

EAGLES

It took Nick Sirianni a while to realize it. It took Miles Sanders a while to prove it. 

When healthy, when given the opportunity, Sanders is one of the NFL’s best running backs.

What we’ve seen the last month of the season is what Sanders has been hinting at since he was a rookie in 2019. He’s just done it better and more consistently than he ever has before.

READ: Eagles’ playoff chances get huge boost from win over WFT

The last four games:

  • 16-for-94 [5.9] vs. Saints
  • 9-for-64 [7.1] vs. Giants
  • 24-for-120 [5.0] vs. Jets 
  • 18-for-131 [7.3] vs. Washington

That’s 409 rushing yards and a 6.1 average in four games since he returned from an ankle injury, and that’s by far the best four-game stretch of Sanders’ career. In fact, Sanders is the first Eagle since at least 1950 with four straight games with at least nine carries and a 5.0 average.

The only running back with more yards over the last month is John Taylor, the Colts’ MVP candidate from Salem. But Sanders’ 6.1 average is best in the league since Week 11, higher even than Taylor’s 5.3.

The only other Eagles RBs with 400 rushing yards and a 6.1 average over any four-game stretch since 1950 are Timmy Brown in 1965 and LeSean McCoy in 2013.

Pretty good company.

We’re seeing Sanders coming off age right in front of our eyes. He’s never had the combination of health and opportunity at the same time in his career.

Now that he has it, he’s unstoppable.

 

Sanders has had big games before. But he’s never had a stretch like this. He would always either get hurt, get ignored by the coach or get the carries but not the production.

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But in the four games since he got back from his ankle injury, we’ve seen a different player. Sanders has rushed for 90 or more yards eight times in his career – three of them in the last four games.

Sanders has been a more decisive runner, a more physical interior runner, a tougher runner. You don’t see him dancing around anymore. He’s getting the ball and hitting whatever hole this monstrous offensive line carves out for him.

Wasn’t that long ago we were wondering if Sanders was in Sirianni’s doghouse. 

Remember when he only got two carries against the Cowboys? That started a stretch where he ran the ball just 35 times in five games. Four of them losses.

During Sanders’ three-game layoff with an ankle injury, Sirianni discovered the running attack, and since he’s been back Sanders has been the centerpiece of the offense.

The Eagles are 5-1 when he gets 10 or more carries, 2-6 when he doesn’t.

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Sanders has had some decent stretches before. He had some big games late in 2019 and early last year. But neither Doug Pederson or Sirianni gave him the opportunity to be a consistent bell-cow runner.

He’s finally gotten the chance and he’s run with it.

Sanders has gone from an afterthought to one of the most important players on one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

After their win over Washington Tuesday night, the Eagles are 5-2 since Week 8, and only the Chiefs, Patriots and Dolphins have a better record. The Eagles are 3rd in the NFL in scoring during that span and averaging an insane 214 rushing yards per game.

With 120 yards vs. the Jets and a career-high 131 Tuesday night on just 18 carries, Sanders became the fifth Eagle ever to rush for 120 yards and average 5.0 yards per carry in consecutive games. Ricky Watters, Duce Staley, LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown are the others.

 

Overall, the Eagles have now rushed for 175 or more yards in seven straight games, the first team in 31 years to do that and only the ninth in NFL history.

Their 1,501 rushing yards since the Lions game is their most in a seven-game span since 1950. Only the Lamar Jackson Ravens and Walter Payton Bears have had more in any seven-game span since 1978.

And the last month, Sanders has been in the middle of it all, which is just about the last place we expected him to be two months ago.

Sanders has hinted at greatness in the past with some big games and electrifying runs. The last month, he’s finally cashed in on all his promise, and it turns out all it took was somebody giving him a chance.