Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders came to training camp with one goal in mind.
“To prove that I belong on this team,” he said.
In training camp, Sanders was extremely impressive. Head coach Doug Pederson even said Sanders could handle “as much as we give him.” And earlier this week, as the Eagles prepare for Week 1, Pederson talked about playing Sanders and fellow second-round rookie JJ Arcega Whiteside immediately.
“This is why you draft these guys,” Pederson said. “I don't think you hold back. You plug them in, and you go. They have to learn.”
Sanders, 22, said it “absolutely” meant a lot to him to get a vote of confidence from the head coach about playing immediately. He saw it as affirmation that he accomplished that goal in training camp.
“That just proves that I did what I had to do in camp to get the coach’s confidence in me and trust in me,” Sanders said.
There’s no doubt that he belongs.
And we know Sanders will have a role from the jump, but now the question shifts to how big of a role it’ll be. Sanders, this week, said he didn’t know. The Eagles have Jordan Howard and Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, too.
But the Eagles didn’t draft Sanders to sit him. He’s going to have a major role.
The thing that most commonly keeps rookie running backs off the field is an inability to pass protect. Sanders is well aware of that fact, which is why he’s worked so hard since his arrival to prove himself in that capacity. Sanders has already noticed himself becoming better at recognizing blitzes, formations and fronts.
“Miles has dialed in on his protections,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “Just like all running backs in the NFL, they’re going to be put in some challenging situations where they have to block some ‘backers that are running downhill on them and are big guys and have bad intentions. But I know he’s capable.”
The Eagles are going to use a running back rotation this season and a lot of it will be determined by scheme. Running backs coach Duce Staley will have a big role in determining how the rotation works, but it will be a collaboration. This rotation could also evolve as the season progresses.
“In all phases, we have a lot of confidence with Miles,” Groh said.
Now, Sanders just has to keep proving himself.
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