I’m pretty sure I wrote this same column about Brian Westbrook.
Probably wrote it about Correll Buckhalter, Duce Staley and LeSean McCoy, too.
The names have changed, but once again the Eagles have a dynamic young running back who isn’t getting enough touches.
And I just don’t get it.
The Eagles’ offense is a mess right now. The receiving corps is a wreck. The offensive line is in disarray. The quarterback is mired in a slump. The running back position has been decimated.
Once-trusty players like Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert don't look like themselves.
Half the team is injured. The other half is having a bad year.
There are two skill guys who have played consistently well of late.
One is Zach Ertz, who has 30 catches over the last three weeks and is on his way to another Pro Bowl.
The other is Miles Sanders, and it seems like no matter how productive he is and how desperately the offense needs firepower, Doug Pederson simply won’t lean on the rookie from Penn State.
After a sluggish start, Sanders is averaging an excellent 4.4 yards per carry. Yet he’s averaging just 9.0 carries per game.
It made sense early in the year to limit his carries. It took Sanders a few weeks to find his way. We could all see it. Jordan Howard was healthy and productive, Sanders was struggling.
But things changed. Sanders showed in Buffalo he belonged with that explosive 65-yard TD run, and it seemed to give him renewed confidence. Since then he’s been more decisive, his vision has improved, his cut-backs have been sharper, and he’s hitting the hole hard.
We can all see it.
Through it all, he’s caught the ball well. And since the two fumbles against the Lions back in Week 3, he’s been secure with the ball.
I thought Sunday was one of Sanders’ best games yet. He ran hard, didn’t have a super long run but kept the chains moving. He averaged 5.3 yards a pop, caught three passes for 27 yards and picked up 86 yards of offense on a day when yards were hard to come by.
But he got just 12 carries. That’s been par for the course lately. And this was a one-possession game until a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
Since that 65-yard TD announced Sanders’ arrival as a legit NFL back, the Eagles have had 42 possessions, and Sanders has 33 carries.
That's 3/4 of a carry per drive.
In the Patriots loss, Sanders had only four second-half carries. Sunday, he had only five. Both were largely one-possession games.
It makes no sense. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of other things working.
Counting Carson Wentz runs as pass plays, the Eagles have thrown the ball 101 times and run it 36 in these two close losses.
Why not play to your strengths?
Sanders is averaging 4.9 yards per carry since Week 3. That’s 11th-best among all NFL running backs during that span. Ahead of guys like Matt Breida, Leonard Fournette, Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook.
Yet he’s 32nd during the same span in carries and 33rd in touches.
Sanders has shown he’s a weapon in both the running game and the receiving game. He’s one of only eight players in the NFL with 300 yards both rushing and receiving.
He’s on pace for 1,125 yards from scrimmage on just 183 touches. The last NFL rookie running back with 1,100 yards on 190 or fewer touches was Paul Lowe of the Chargers in 1960.
That’s big-time efficiency.
There’s no reason to think Sanders can’t handle an increased workload. Heck, Pederson gave rookie Josh Adams 42 carries in a two-game span last year. Sanders is clearly more of a weapon than Adams. But Sanders has never gotten more than 13 carries.
The Eagles need offense.
Sanders has shown he can provide it.
Take the kid gloves off.
Let him run.
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