How will Miles Sanders’ return affect the Eagles’ suddenly-reliable rushing attack?

Posted on November 17, 2021

Here’s a sentence you might have once thought you’d never associate with the Eagles: the rushing game has become the talk of the town. After flat-out refusing to run in the first half of the season, the Eagles have changed their tune – and it’s worked.

Per StatMuse, Philadelphia has rushed for 626 yards in their last three games, and have the second most rushing yards (1,443) in the NFL, second only to the Browns.

As a team, the Eagles are averaging 5.0 YPC and 144.3 rushing yards/game. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard have both impressed in the new rotation. In his last four games, Scott is averaging 5.13 Y/A and 53.1 rushing Y/G (205 total), while Howard has averaged 70.3 rushing Y/G (211 total) and 5.15 Y/A in his past three games.

Both backs have complimented each other well, and Kenny Gainwell has provided some production in between. Everything seems perfect for the Eagles – which means, going by the Philadelphia’s Murphy’s Law, something bad or controversial will happen.

Enter Miles Sanders.

Sanders is making his return from an ankle injury, and is walking into a confusing situation. At first glance, it seems like it would be good for him. The Eagles finally understand the value and rewards of having a balanced offense.

However, some analysts — such as NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank — believe that the Eagles should continue rolling with the combination of Scott and Howard. “I like Sanders, but you can’t ignore the fact that this offense has been more effective without him,” Frank said.

“There are a lot of other factors. The O-line has played better, Sirianni’s play-calling has improved dramatically and Jalen Hurts has been more efficient. But Scott and Howard have just been consistently productive in a way that Sanders hasn’t been.”

While the new-look offense might have some clamoring for the personnel to stay the same, having one of your best players not have an impactful role hurts your chances at the postseason. It appears Philadelphia understands this.

The Eagles Shouldn’t Overthink This – Sanders Is The #1 RB

Appearing before the media, Nick Sirianni confirmed that, when healthy, Miles Sanders will be the starting running back. It’s the undeniably right decision. Over his past three games, Howard has been given 41 carries. In his first seven games, Sanders was given 63 carries. Total.

It would only be logical to give some of that usage to Sanders before writing him off completely. It’s not exactly like Sanders was completely bombing when healthy, either.

(AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

According to PlayerProfiler, he ranks fifth in breakaway run rate (the percentage of carries of 15 yards or more) with 7.9%, 15th in yards created per touch with 3.45, and 17th in true yards per carry with 4.6 YPC. There are plenty of other statistics to suggest that Sanders would thrive in the new-look offense as well.

The Eagles shouldn’t immediately get rid of Scott or Howard from the game plan. Howard has shown to be a nice change-of-pace back, and Scott’s quickness is needed. Keeping all three in the mix will help keep the Eagles’ competitiveness up. But the idea that Sanders should be “eased” back — or even benched — is a little ridiculous.

Is Sirianni Looking Like A Hypocrite For His Backing Of Sanders?

While I believe Sanders starting is the right decision, Sirianni might appear to be going against what he preached throughout training camp and the preseason – competition. Ignoring the usage totals, the combination of Howard and Scott has certainly trumped Sanders’ play.

How much does this matter? It remains to be seen. I’m not too sure how many players and fans really took his words to heart – after all, new coaches emphasize values like that frequently.

However, it’s certainly disappointing to see the team seemingly forget what they set out to establish, which is a locker room where anyone can win a job depending on their play.

Of course, every situation is different – Sanders has likely earned another chance at a starting role. If he struggles during his return, then it’s a different story.

Drew Rhoades Avatar
Written by
Drew Rhoades

If there’s one thing you need to know about Drew Rhoades, it’s that he knows Philadelphia sports. A graduate from Saint Joseph’s University, Rhoades has previously written about Hawk sports for The Hawk Newspaper and covered baseball at Phillies Nation. In his spare time, he loves to volunteer at his local animal shelter and bike.

View all posts by Drew Rhoades