After Miles Sanders fumbled twice in five plays on Sunday, the Eagles would have been completely justified if they benched their rookie running back.
They didn’t do it.
It’s just not how they operate.
Instead, they went back to Sanders later in the afternoon, when the game was on the line and they got a few big plays out of him. And in the days since, their confidence in the second-round pick hasn’t wavered.
He's not the first guy to fumble and probably won't be the last,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.
“And so we've got a lot of confidence in Miles. He's made a lot of good plays for us in the first three weeks, and he knows that he's got to take care of the ball. We all know that. So we're not going to bury the guy on the bench.
So while Sanders didn’t touch the ball in the third quarter, the Eagles used him heavily on their final scoring drive of the game. On the Eagles’ 10-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter, Sanders caught a 33-yard pass and had three carries for 21 yards.
The 22-year-old rookie appreciates the way the coaching staff has shown confidence in him despite the two fumbles.
“It means a lot, not just keeping me out, you know, benching me and letting my confidence lower and really beating myself up mentally,” he said. “It feels good they have trust in me. It’s just going to allow me to keep growing and keep balling out and keep putting my best out on the field.”
As he spoke at his locker on Tuesday afternoon, Sanders wasn’t interested in answering questions about the fumbles, but that doesn’t mean those questions are going away.
Sanders fumbled approximately once every 31 touches while at Penn State. He’s now fumbled twice in 40 touches in the NFL.
Groh said the Eagles have tried to correct some of Sanders’ technique from college, so he’s not even carrying the ball the same way now that he was at Penn State. He also said running backs coach Duce Staley does a great job showing the running backs how they want them to grip the football.
Groh explained it while mimicking the move: “With our fingers over the point of the ball and wrist above our elbow, elbow locked against the rib cage, got our forearm locked on the front of the ball, all the things that we emphasize out there. So we just continue to emphasize those things and remind the guys of those things, and they know it's important.”
Doug Pederson has always worked hard to make sure his players don’t lose confidence. Sometimes that means going back to a receiver after they drop a pass. Sometimes that means handing the ball off to a rookie running back despite earlier fumbles.
The Eagles drafted Sanders in the second round to play him. While Jordan Howard is an intriguing option, don’t expect Sanders to get phased out of the offense anytime soon. Just look at how they handled Sunday.
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