Eagles

How Miles Sanders’ blazing speed and patience have become huge weapon for Eagles

How Miles Sanders’ blazing speed and patience have become huge weapon for Eagles

While the Eagles faced more third downs than they would have liked against Washington on Sunday, they also had their best third-down day ever under Doug Pederson, converting on 11 of 19 attempts. 

They converted two on 3rd-and-7 or longer with run plays. 

That never happens without the quick burst from rookie Miles Sanders. 

“The athleticism that he has, the big-play ability that he has,” center Jason Kelce said, “that’s something that, quite frankly, we’ve needed on this offense. It’s been really good, obviously, that he can provide that.” 

Sanders on Sunday converted on a 3rd-and-7 run and a 3rd-and-10, getting up over 20 mph on both runs. It’s a dimension of speed from that position that the Eagles haven’t had for a long time. 

It’s a real advantage and it’s fun to watch. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of those two plays: 

Play 1 — Top speed: 20.64 mph 

This was a 3rd-and-7 with 3:08 left in the first half. The Eagles have the ball at their own 35-yard line and Sanders picks up a big gain of 14 yards on a draw. It was the Eagles’ second-longest play of the day. 

 

The Eagles are in shotgun in 12 personnel and you’ll notice both Washington safeties are back. The Eagles notice that too. The Redskins are running a stunt up front, which we’ll take a closer look at in a minute, but know the Eagles handle it well. 

At the mesh point, it looks like there’s a hole developing and it’s basically going to be a 1-on-1 between Sanders and safety Landon Collins. 

A few weeks ago, Sanders would have probably seen that hole and gone at it right away. But on Sunday, he shows patience. He realizes that Isaac Seumalo’s man was coming across his face, so Sanders stuck his foot in the ground and then explodes up field for a first down. Collins gets off balance and had zero chance of catching him. 

Meanwhile, all the receivers on that side of the field are doing their jobs and taking their men away, leaving a lot of open space. 

Take a look from the other angle: 

Here, you’ll see how well Seumalo handles this stunt up front. He passes it off and then takes his new man with momentum away from the play. Sanders gets his foot in the ground and explodes up to over 20 mph. 

Just before the mesh point, you can see how this play looks to be developing. Collins is already starting to drive toward the first hole. Meanwhile, Seumalo is passing off his man and about to take linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton away with his own momentum. 

I can’t stress enough how important Sanders’ development has been. A few weeks ago, he probably bursts through that first hole and gains five yards and the Eagles punt. But now he remains patient and bursts to the right spot. 

Kelce brought up an interesting point on Sunday night. Sanders has always had burst, but sometimes that can be a bad thing if he’s not going to the right place. We probably saw some of that earlier in the season. But now Sanders is patient and his vision is taking over … and once he finds the hole, he’s gone. 

Right here, Sanders has been patient long enough. He sees the new hole developing and he puts his left foot in the dirt and takes off like a rocket. Collins does the same, but even if he takes a decent angle, he has no chance to catch the speedy rookie, who picks up the first down. 

Play 2 — Top speed: 21.01 mph

 

This play came on a 3rd-and-10 early in the fourth quarter from the Eagles’ 25-yard line. Sanders picked up 56 yards on the run. It’s the second-longest run on the season, behind just his 65-yarder against the Bills. 

At the snap, the Redskins have an overload blitz on the left side of the defensive line. They’re going to bring more bodies than the Eagles have blockers — Big V isn’t going to block three players — but that’s OK. 

Nothing too special here. Sanders is just going to bounce this outside and find a bunch of room. The two defenders have no chance to catch him and he simply runs away from them. Washington clearly wasn’t expecting the Eagles to run a draw play on 3rd-and-10 down four points. The Eagles got them with it thanks to Sanders’ speed. 

••• 

Don’t expect Pederson to start running on 3rd-and-longs frequently. But since this is now on tape, teams have to at least respect it, which means this should free up more in the passing game. 

None of this is possible with a plodding runner. I can’t say for certain, but I’d be shocked to see the Eagles run either of these plays with Jordan Howard because he just doesn’t have the same explosion as Sanders. 

According to NFL’s NextGen Stats, Sanders accounted for the second- and ninth-fastest recorded times for ball carriers in Week 15 and both happened on these third down plays. He’s quite a weapon and we’re probably just scratching the surface. 

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Detailing Jason Peters’ bargain 1-year deal with the Eagles

Detailing Jason Peters’ bargain 1-year deal with the Eagles

The Eagles brought back Jason Peters last month and will start the nine-time Pro Bowl tackle at right guard in the 2020 season, replacing the injured Brandon Brooks. 

Peters, 38, signed a one-year deal to return to the Eagles and now we have all the details on that contract. 

Peters’ one-year deal includes $3 million guaranteed but can be worth up to $6 million, according to a league source. Peters’ salary cap hit in 2020 is $3 million. 

Here’s how his contract breaks down in 2020, according to a source: 

Base salary: $1.8 million 
Signing bonus: $1 million 
Per-game roster bonus: $200,000 total 

In addition to that, his contract also includes $3 million in incentives for playing time, Super Bowl, All-Pro and Pro Bowl in different combinations. Since Peters didn’t accomplish those things last year, all of those are considered to be “Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives, which is why they don’t count against the cap. 

Getting Peters at a $3 million cap hit is a bargain. His renegotiated one-year contract in 2019 came with a base salary of $3.5 million and a cap hit of $8.67 million. His $3 million cap hit in 2020 is his lowest cap hit since the 2007 season, his fourth year in the NFL, when he was still with the Bills. According to OverTheCap, there are 18 right guards around the league with higher cap hits in 2020. 

With Peters’ cap number known and after removing Marquise Goodwin — Goodwin opted out of the 2020 season — to replace him with the 52nd highest paid player (the top 51 count for cap purposes), the Eagles have $23,804,112 in cap space for the 2020 season. 

But before you get visions of Jadeveon Clowney or another high-priced free agent still available, you have to remember that the Eagles probably need to carry this cap amount into next season. 

Last week, when I looked at the 2021 cap situation, I estimated by carrying over $23 million and it looks like I was pretty close. Even with carrying over that much, the Eagles are still nearly $60 million over the salary cap if it hits the floor of $175 million in 2021. It could be higher, but that’s the floor based on the expected revenue drop this season. 

So the Eagles will need to carry over all (or at least most) of their cap space in 2020 into 2021. Getting Peters for a bargain this season will only help. 

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Rodney McLeod on Eagles secondary: ‘It’s time to live up to that standard’

Rodney McLeod on Eagles secondary: ‘It’s time to live up to that standard’

“The Eagles’ secondary __________”

You can fill in the blank with whatever word you want, but you get the idea. The Eagles’ secondary has struggled the last two years, and Rodney McLeod has had enough.

Time to do something about it.

Part of it is pass rush, part of it is situational, but over the last two years, the Eagles’ secondary has allowed the 5th-most passing yards in the NFL and the 2nd most passing TDs of 40 yards or more and has the 5th-fewest interceptions.

Enter new secondary coach Marquand Manuel. Enter all-pro cornerback Darius Slay. Enter Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot. Enter Jalen Mills at safety. Enter Will Parks and K’Von Wallace. Good-bye Malcolm Jenkins and presumably a few other familiar faces.

It’s time for this secondary to be a strength of the Eagles. Not a weakness.

As a secondary, I felt that we were a little bit disrespected at times and I think now it’s time to live up to that standard,” McLeod said Thursday. “A standard that’s been set with people that played way before us. The Brian Dawkins of the world. The Troy Vincents. Malcolm (Jenkins). I think when you think of guys who have put on the jersey before us, we owe them that. And so we want to get back to the secondary taking over this defense and winning the game and putting the game on our back, and that’s the standard 'M' (Manuel) is holding us to as well as the players in this room.

The Eagles were 29th in pass defense in 2018 and 19th last year. A lot of that was injuries. But a lot wasn’t.

A lot was just a unit that needed to be overhauled.

The Eagles haven’t had a top-10 pass defense since – believe it or not – 2012, when the 4-12 team was ranked 9th.  Mainly because everybody was always up big against them and just ran the ball.

Their last top-5 pass defense was the 2008 unit, with the late Jim Johnson’s last year as defensive coordinator and current Bills head coach Sean McDermott as secondary coach.

Manuel replaces Corey Undlin, now the Lions’ defensive coordinator.

McLeod said Manuel is already emphasizing to his group that it’s time for the Eagles’ secondary to get back to playing like the Eagles’ secondary of old.

“I think people respect him because he’s played the game, because of his passion and because of the way he coaches this group,” McLeod said. “And because the expectations that he has for us. It’s a very high standard. He’s coached a lot of good secondaries and we want to be another group to be respected in this league and treated as such. He’s going to fit perfectly. We’re going to be good.”

This is the first time since 2013 that Jenkins won’t be lining up at safety for the Eagles, but it’s also the first time they have a Pro Bowl cornerback in his prime on the field since Asante Samuel in 2011.

A lot of newcomers, a lot of change. And McLeod is determined to put out a product on the field that fans can appreciate and opposing players will respect.

It’s been a while.

“It’s a talented group,” he said. “It’s a room full of depth and talented individuals and hungry guys too, willing to compete, and that’s what we have to do. We have to create that culture and bring out the best in all of us in order to be the best.

“We’re all professionals and guys are committed and that’s what you need in order to win. For this season, it’s all about who is able to eliminate distractions and adapt and sacrifice. Both in and out of this building. That’s what it’s going to take.”

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