Eagles Insider

Trying to understand why Sanders has become an afterthought

Eagles Insider

Nick Chubb had 17 carries for 57 yards four minutes into the fourth quarter. That’s 3.4 yards per carry.

Not very good.

Aaron Jones was 14 for 53 late in the fourth quarter in Green Bay on Sunday. That’s 3.8 yards per carry.

Not very good.

What happened next? 

On his 18th carry, Chubb exploded for 54 yards to set up a key late touchdown in the Browns’ 22-17 win over the Eagles.

On his 15th carry, Jones raced 77 yards for a touchdown to turn a one-possession game into a 30-16 Packers win.

Neither Chubb nor Jones was having much of a game. But their coach stuck with them, believed in them, kept feeding them the ball and gave them every chance to pop a big run.

Which they did. Because that's what great backs do.

And great coaches give them that chance instead of throwing the ball 72 percent of the time, which is where the Eagles are during their four-game losing streak.

Every running back will tell you the more carries they get, the more they get a feel for what the defense is doing, the more they get into a groove, the more dangerous they become.

That's why you see backs who look like they're running into a wall for a few series in a row eventually bust a game-breaker.

Which brings us to Miles Sanders.

Maybe he would have popped a big run on his 18th carry against the Packers. But he hasn’t had 18 carries since Week 2.

 

Maybe he would have popped a big run on his 15th carry. But he didn’t come anywhere near getting a 15th carry.

The disappearance of Sanders from the Eagles’ offensive game plan is one of the stranger developments of this miserable 2020 season.

In his last six games, he’s gotten more than 11 carries only twice (he left the Ravens game early) and the last two weeks he ran six times against the Seahawks and 10 times against the Packers.

He had only one second-half carry against Seattle, and after getting five carries Sunday on the Eagles’ first drive, he got only five more the rest of the game. 

There’s a lot going on here.

Sanders’ rushing numbers have not been good lately. He was 6 for 15 against the Seahawks and 10 for 31 against the Packers. He’s struggled catching the football. At times there haven’t been holes for him to run through, other times it looks like he’s dancing too much behind the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, the Eagles even tried to get Jordan Howard going Sunday, and he did OK — 4 for 18 in his first game back with the Eagles, although after getting four carries in an early seven-play span, he didn’t get any carries on the Eagles’ last 35 plays. There's a shock.

Something weird is going on. You don’t just stop playing the guy who’s been your best offensive player for a year and a half.

Even with these last two games, Sanders still has the third-highest rushing average in the NFL over the last two years among starting running backs. He’s still one of only two players in the league with two 70-yard runs this year.

He’s still one of the few explosive weapons on a team in desperate need of explosive weapons.  

We’ve all seen what kind of ability this kid has. Nobody in franchise history has ever had more scrimmage yards than Sanders in his first 25 career games.

Yeah, the offensive line is bad, but Sanders was putting up big numbers early in the season behind a worse offensive line.

Have the Eagles somehow soured on Sanders? As crazy as it sounds, it kind of seems like it.

How else do you explain this?

So instead of burying him on the bench, identify the issue and try to solve it. 

Because 11.8 carries per game — which is where Sanders is at since Week 3 when he plays the full game — isn’t helping anybody.

It’s tough to know what Doug Pederson is thinking because he doesn’t share much. He’s said a couple times he should give Sanders more work, but it never happens.

He always starts out feeding Sanders early but after a couple of unproductive reps, he forgets about him.

Every running back has those one-yard gains and two-yard losses. The elite ones follow them with huge gains.

If they get the opportunity.

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