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Still think Miles Sanders is a bust?

Still think Miles Sanders is a bust?

With one unforgettable play, Miles Sanders went from frustrated rookie to legit NFL running back.

But it didn’t just happen. While Sanders was struggling along with one of the lowest rushing averages in the NFL, he never stopped working to become the player we all expected him to be.

“Week after week he gets better and better and smoother and smoother,” Brandon Brooks said. “I’m extremely excited for him. The biggest thing as a rookie is the game is so much faster, and there’s so much more to think about and finally for him it’s starting to slow down. He busts his ass through the week, whether it’s blitz pickups or hanging out with Duce or being with Sproles, so he knows what’s going on. But I think it’s starting to slow down for him. He’s looking better and better each week.”

Sanders still has to do this consistently, but his 65-yard touchdown run against the Bills Sunday behind a massive Jordan Howard block not only turned a tight four-point game into a 10-point Eagles lead, it really demonstrated what this 22-year-old rookie is capable of.

We’ve already seen what he can do in the passing game. He’s a beast.

He left the game early Sunday with a shoulder injury that he said isn’t serious, but not before he caught three passes for 44 yards and ran three times for 74 yards.

“Happy for him,” Brooks said. “He busts his ass. I was telling Duce, the one thing I saw, it wasn’t even on that run, it was on a kick return, you saw it, he was just really smooth in and out of his cuts, making guys miss, it was like, ‘OK, there it its, it’s coming along.’”

Sanders entered the weekend averaging 3.5 yards per carry, which was seventh-worst of 42 backs in the NFL with at least 50 carries.

His carries had gone down and Howard’s had gone up. But Pederson never completely forgot Sanders. And it was interesting that on a key TD drive in the first half, down near the goal line after the Brandon Graham strip sack, Pederson dialed up Sanders, who gained nine yards on two carries to set up a touchdown.

Sanders’ 65-yard TD was the longest by an Eagle since a 65-yarder by Bryce Brown against the Bears in 2013 and matched the longest since a 66-yarder by LeSean McCoy against the Giants in 2009.

Where Sanders has struggled this year is reading the hole and getting to the second level.

But once he does? Watch out.

In the open field, he looks strong, fast and powerful.

“Obviously it means a lot,” he said. “Rookie season. First rushing touchdown, long one, took it the house. But I have to give credit to the key block that Jordan had and the offensive line. They played a hell of a game the whole game. That play doesn’t happen unless those guys do their jobs.”

Halfway through the season, Sanders is on pace for 1,136 scrimmage yards, a 4.5 rushing average and 38 catches. Only 19 rookie RBs have had 1,100 scrimmage yards, a 4.5 average and at least 35 catches.

Sanders is only the 10th NFL player with 250 yards both rushing and receiving in his first eight career games since 1986. The others are Ricky Watters, Marshall Faulk, Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James, Jahvid Best, Saquon Barkley, Karreem Hunt and Alvin Kamara.

Sanders is the first running back with six catches of at least 25 yards since Tiki Barber in 2004.

He's second among rookies in yards from scrimmage behind only Oakland’s Josh Jacobs, who has 50 more touches. He’s seventh among all rookies — backs and receivers — in receiving yards.

“He’s just learning and learning,” Howard said. “It’s a tough league to adjust to, but I feel like he’s just getting better and better, keep making big plays week in and week out. I feel like he’s getting a lot more comfortable each week … I try to wear the defense down and when he gets in the game he has that game-breaking speed, and it worked out today.”

He’s still learning. Still getting better. Still finding his way.

But it sure looks like the Eagles have found themselves a young stud running back for the first time in a decade.

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Eagle Eye podcast: A season-saving win in Buffalo

Eagle Eye podcast: A season-saving win in Buffalo

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, on their way back from Buffalo, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro break down the Eagles’ 31-13 win over the Bills. 

The guys talk about just how important this win was and how the Eagles got it done. The run game was dynamic and the defense held the Bills to 13 points. 

It was a big victory at New Era Field. 

• What the win means 
• Leaders came up big 
• Sorry, Orlando Scandrick 
• Eagles ran the ball down their throats
• Miles Sanders/Jordan Howard both get going 
• Defense does its job 
• Where Brandon Graham ranks all-time
• Carson Wentz has a solid afternoon 
• The guys tried wings in Buffalo 

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Brandon Graham's forced fumble 'took the life out' of the Bills

Brandon Graham's forced fumble 'took the life out' of the Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Stop me if this sounds familiar: Brandon Graham came up with a huge forced fumble for the Eagles on Sunday. 

OK, this one wasn’t in the Super Bowl, but it was a pretty important situation in the 2019 season. 

With 2:00 left in the first half of the Eagles’ 31-13 win over the Bills, Graham knocked the ball out of Josh Allen’s hand on a QB keeper and then he recovered the fumble too. 

“It was big. It was really big for us,” Fletcher Cox said. “We always talk about when we have a running quarterback, when they try to run the ball, just try to get it out. It was a tempo-setter. That just kind of took the life out of them early in the game.”

At the time of that forced fumble, the Bills had a 7-3 lead and were probably going to go into halftime with that lead because the Eagles’ offense had struggled to get anything going. But this turnover gave Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense the ball on the Bills’ 24-yard line. Five plays later, Wentz hit Dallas Goedert for a 5-yard touchdown pass to give the Eagles a lead they didn’t lose again. 

Graham’s play was the turning point of the game and maybe the season. 

“That was huge,” Wentz said. “Any time the defense can create a turnover, that’s huge. And then obviously for us to take advantage of the good field position, to take advantage of the momentum, that’s really what we try and do every time we step on the field. We try and control the ball offensively, but when the defense can create a turnover, we've got to capitalize, and we were able to do that today.”

On the strip, Graham said the Bills checked to that QB keeper and he heard Nathan Gerry yell, “Power! Power!” So Graham just came across the face of his blocker and got his hand on the ball to knock it out. 

While Graham certainly understood the importance of the play, he said he really didn’t do anything too special. 

“I just poked at the ball,” he said. “That’s all I really did.”

Graham finished Sunday’s game tied for a team-high six tackles, one sack, two TFLs, and the forced fumble and fumble recovery. Through eight games, Graham has five sacks. After a slow start to his 2019 season, Graham is now on pace for his first-career 10-sack season. 

A big reason the Eagles won on Sunday was because their best players played well. That included Graham and Cox, who has also started to come on really strong in recent weeks. Cox had 1½ sacks on Sunday and now has 2½ in his last two games after getting shut out in the first six weeks of the season. Cox’s sack in the first quarter was a strip sack, but the Bills recovered.

Graham made sure he was able to fall on the ball after his own forced fumble and it became the biggest play of the game and of the season to date.  

“We got that one,” Graham said, “and didn’t look back after that.”

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