A year ago, Miles Sanders was the young guy. A 22-year-old rookie in a running back room with 36-year-old Darren Sproles, two-time 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard, Super Bowl hero Corey Clement and, for a few weeks, fifth-year pro Jay Ajayi.
Sproles is now retired and working for the Eagles, Howard is with the Dolphins and Ajayi is out of football. Clement is back with the Eagles for his fourth year after two injury-plagued seasons.
And as weird as it sounds, Sanders — with 11 career starts under his belt — is now the savvy vet.
Even though he didn’t become the Eagles’ regular tailback until Howard got hurt in Week 9, Sanders has almost as many career carries as all the Eagles’ other running backs combined.
There was talk about the Eagles going out and signing a veteran back. It never happened.
Sanders kind of is the veteran back.
Look at the Eagles’ running back stable going into training camp:
Miles Sanders (23): 179-818 rushing, 50 -509 receiving, 6 TD
Boston Scott (25): 61-for-245 rushing, 24-204 receiving, 5 TD
Corey Clement (25): 142-580 rushing, 32-315 receiving, 8 TD
Elijah Holyfield (22): 0-0, 0-0
Adrian Killians (22): 0-0, 0-0
Michael Warren : 0-0, 0-0
Sanders and Scott, who were both so good down the stretch last year, have both graduated from wide-eyed rookies to mature leaders.
“Just really growing up faster, making us mature faster, knowing that we’re the only two backs that played (at the end of) last year and now we have younger guys in the room — plus Corey’s been here, but he’s been out a couple years,” Sanders said. “But now we’re the older guys, having to be more vocal, making sure we know what we’re doing, setting examples and being role models. It feels good.”
And with Duce Staley and Sproles, that’s 9,337 career rushing yards,7,427 receiving yards and 89 touchdowns of expertise right there in the building.
Staley is in his 10th year on the Eagles’ coaching staff and eighth year as running backs coach, and Sproles is a personnel consultant in the scouting department.
“We still got Sproles in the room helping us out and we still got Duce,” Sanders said. “So with those two guys I think sky’s the limit for this group.”
There were plenty of veteran running backs available if the Eagles wanted one.
Carlos Hyde, LeSean McCoy, Devona Freeman, Lamar Miller, Jonathan Williams and one-time Eagle Wendell Smallwood were on the street two months into free agency.
Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman decided to go with what they have.
“I trust Howie and their process in bringing people in for what’s the best for the team,” Sanders said. “They announced that I’m the guy this year, but having any type of veteran running back in here would be a blessing too just for me to pick their brain and help me out too. I’m always up to learn.”
Clement is the Eagles’ oldest running back. Assuming this is the group the Eagles take into the regular season, it will be the first time in 34 years the Eagles don’t have a running back older than 26.
In 1986, their running back corps consisted of Keith Byars (23), Anthony Toney (24), Michael Haddix (25), Junior Tautalatasi (24) and Charles Crawford (22).
This 2020 running back group has speed, explosiveness, versatility and toughness.
And when you have all that, maybe you don’t even need experience.
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