Eagles

Why it's best to forget the numbers from Miles Sanders' NFL debut

Why it's best to forget the numbers from Miles Sanders' NFL debut

The numbers aren’t particularly gaudy. Miles Sanders ran 11 times for 25 yards, which comes out to 2.3 yards a pop.

In this case, it’s best to forget the numbers. 

There's no reason to be discouraged by Sanders’ performance in his NFL debut Sunday. 

For a few reasons.

• He did a terrific job picking up blitzes, and that’s been a big focus this summer and something he has to do or he won’t play.

“He did a really good job in his pass protection,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “He was targeted in his pass protection and stepped up and took on the linebacker a couple times and did a really good job of that (and) we think he'll continue to progress.”

• After gaining two yards on his first five carries, Sanders exploded up the middle for a 19-yard gain down to the 3-yard-line on the Eagles’ first third-quarter touchdown drive. He wasn’t able to punch it in against a stacked line on the next two snaps, but that 19-yard run really showed his speed, elusiveness and cut-back ability. It was the longest run by an Eagles running back in his first NFL game since Charlie Garner had a 28-yard TD on his fourth career carry against the 49ers in 1994.

“I thought Miles ran the ball really well,” Groh said. “He was able to slither through there a couple times. You saw a real burst and change of speed in the second level.”

• His ball security was excellent, and that’s been a huge concern. Sanders fumbled 10 times at Penn State, which is a lot considering he only had 308 career touches.

• In the fourth quarter, Sanders blasted 21 yards for an apparent touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty on JJ Arcega-Whiteside. If that play counted — and it appeared that the (borderline) hold didn’t really benefit Sanders — his average jumps from 2.3 to 3.8. Whether it counted or not, it was a sharp-looking run.

It’s tough to quantify it and the stats aren’t pretty, but the bottom line is it looked like Sanders belonged.

“It felt good,” Sanders said. “(The game was) fast. Real fast. A little different than preseason. But it was good to be out there and be in front of the whole Philly (crowd) and just balling. I felt really good out there.”

Sanders wound up with four negative runs, including one on the goal-line after his long run down to the 3.

He led all the running backs in snaps — 36 for Sanders, 23 for Darren Sproles, 17 for Jordan Howard. And he had the most carries and touches.

Sproles and Howard were both more productive: Sproles averaged 5.2 yards on nine carries and Howard 4.4 on six carries.

Howard needs to play more and Sproles needs to play less, but Sanders, the rookie second-round pick, will likely remain the centerpiece of the running game. 

Howard was in Sanders’ ear throughout the game encouraging him and keeping him up.

Asked what he told the 22-year-old running back, Howard said: 

“Just know that every play’s not going to be perfect. You can’t let one play defeat you. You’ve got to have a quick mindset and just forget it.”

The Eagles go to Atlanta Sunday to face a Falcons team that allowed 172 rushing yards in a loss to the Vikings in Minnesota Sunday.

Look for another generous helping of Sanders.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “So it’s only up from here.”

Sanders didn’t seem discouraged and he shouldn’t. He had a significant role in his first NFL game, and the Eagles won.

Everything looked good except the stats, and there’s every reason to believe that they're about to get much better.



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Roger Goodell makes statement as NFL admits fault, says it supports players' right to protest

Roger Goodell makes statement as NFL admits fault, says it supports players' right to protest

A day after some of the NFL’s biggest black stars called on their league to condemn racism and support their fight, the NFL has responded. 

In a 1:21 video, commissioner Roger Goodell did just that. 

Goodell gave his condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives to police brutality and then offered up the following statement: 

While Goodell didn’t specifically mention Colin Kaepernick, it seems like the NFL will not fight players who wish to demonstrate during the national anthem. In fact, Goodell said the NFL will “encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” 

Kaepernick began his peaceful protest nearly four years ago, back in 2016. 

This video from Goodell and the strong statement from the league comes just a day after Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr. and more created a video asking for this type of response from the league. To the league’s credit, it came pretty promptly. 

In time, we’ll see what this means. It’s been an emotional week in the United States and this feels like a good start. But it also feels like a beginning for the NFL, a jumping off point. As far as players are concerned, this can’t be an empty statement. We’ll find out soon enough if there will be actions to back these words. 

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Michael Bennett has advice for white people trying to combat institutional racism

Michael Bennett has advice for white people trying to combat institutional racism

After a monumentally important week, former Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett has a message for white people who want to be more proactive in combating institutional racism.

Bennett, currently a free agent, and Patriots safety Devin McCourty appeared on Chris Long's Green Light podcast on Friday to discuss the ongoing national protests against racism, police brutality, and the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis last Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed.

The trio of current and former NFLers had a lengthy and candid discussion about what has failed, and what needs to be improved, in the United States, and the whole thing is worth a listen.

One part in particular stuck out to me, when Bennett explained what white people looking to help should be doing:

I think now, with George Floyd, it's even shining more light on the racial disparity with the police system, and I think for our white counterparts, I think they need to do some studying.

[...]

I think white people need to start studying. As a black man, I can't tell you how to not be racist. I can't tell you how to be inclusive. I can't tell you any of those things. That's a self journey. That's a self awareness journey. I think African-American people have had to conform myself to fit in certain areas, whether it was in sports or in the culture, being told, 'You're too this, you're too that, you're too that,' and they're basically saying, 'You're too black.' Right? So now it's a situation where [...] you have to figure out your own journey, to really find out why people are feeling this way.

This protest, with George Floyd and these things, there's history behind it. I implore white people to do some research. Go look at Emmett Till. Go look at Steven Biko. Go look at Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba. Go look at what happened to Medgar Evers, when he was killed in front of his house. Go look at what happened to those girls who were bombed in Alabama. Go look at it. It's the history here. Look at it. We talk about Martin Luther King, but look at the history and how Martin Luther King was treated, how he was chased, how he received assassination attempts on his life. This is the man you look up to.

It's a great point from Bennett. This week's protests are about Floyd's killing, but they're really about something larger.

The more you know about how we reached this current moment in history, the better you can try to move forward in a proactive way.

As NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank noted this week, it's important to see athletes use their platforms to spread messages just like this one:

The more athletes and celebrities who use their platform to influence and educate and demand change, the more we have a chance to move beyond the racism, homophobia, bigotry and sexism that are so prevalent in our society.

Later in the discussion, Bennett gave his thoughts on Washington's football team:

LONG: Is there anything the NFL can do to prove they're actually on the players' side?

BENNETT: Of course there is. I think the Redskins can change their name. That's one way, that's a start right there. You say the league is not racist, and you have a team that literally has a racial slur for its name? The Redskins? What if it was the Whiteskins, or the Blackskins, or the Yellowskins? People would be upset, right? To me, that's one way.

It would certainly be a start.

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