Can Miles Sanders Take The Leap From Good To Great?
In 2019, The Eagles were in dire need of a franchise running back, and on April 26th, 2019, they selected Miles Sanders with the 53rd overall selection.
The Penn State running back was one of the best backs in the entire draft class. The move was beloved by almost the entire fan base and it’s simple as to why. Sanders was and still is a very versatile back who can run inside and out, catch out the backfield, and pass block with effectiveness. With that being said, he always has the ability to be a big-play-threat. Coming out of college, some thought Sanders lacked that “juice” to turn his big plays into “home runs”.
Sanders is currently going into his third year, and has already proved to some of the nay-sayers and critics, that he indeed has the “juice” to take the rock to the “house” whenever he hits the hole. However, Sanders has shown to be a bit inconsistent in some areas, and that doesn’t bode well for Sanders’ NFL pundits running back power rankings.
Sanders rookie season, he started the season as RB2, and he came out the gate a bit slow. You could tell the game was a bit too fast for him still and ball security was an issue. After three games, that started to change as you could begin to see the game slowing down for him. He went on a tear, finishing out the rest of the year with the total of 223 touches, 1327 yards from scrimmage, and 6 touchdowns. Throughout his rookie campaign, Sanders looked like a dual threat, especially in the receiving game, hauling in a total of 50 receptions.
2020, the year from hell for the Philadelphia Eagles was more than just the QB controversy, the wins and loses, the injury bug, it also hit the Eagles young-studded running back more than we hoped.
Although Sanders racked up 867 rushing yards–which was 49 more than his rookie season–in less carries, he only managed to have 197 receiving yards, which was 312 less yards than the previous season. Not only did he have less receiving yards, he also led the team in drops. Miles racked up 7 dropped balls and only 28 receptions on the year. That equals a 20% drop percentage. To the fans, team, organization, and Miles Sanders himself, I’d say we all think he had an underachieving season. With the drops, decrease in total yards from scrimmage, and missing 4 games it completely held Sanders back from making that leap from good to great.
The real question for 2021: will he take that leap this year? There is no reason as to why he can’t move toward “great” status or the next tier of running backs in the league. Before Miles Sanders came to Philadelphia, The Eagles accounted for a total of four rushing plays of 70+ yards from 1994-2019. Miles Sanders had three in 2020. Sanders was also the first running back since 2012 to have three or more rushing plays of 70+ yards in a season. That season, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and Jamaal Charles all accomplished such a task. Sanders is looked at as one of the leagues top “home run hitters” and that compliment shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Where I truly believe Miles Sanders must improve his game to reach the next levels comes down to three factors.
First and foremost, he must become a more consistent pass catcher. Sanders being capable of becoming a more reliable pass catcher would rack up his total yards from scrimmage and open up the offense for the entire offensive unit.
Secondly, he simply has to be on the field. I understand injuries are inevitable, but availability is the best ability, and he missed 4 games last season. If he wants to be considered amongst the top 10 running backs in the league, being injured can’t become an every season occurrence.
Last but not least, Sanders total touchdown number MUST increase. I love a back that can gain a bunch of yards, but what I love more is a finisher. Sanders should average no less than 10 total touchdowns a season if he wants to be considered a top dog in this league.
With all that being said, all of this is going to come down to his health, and how often new Eagles HC Nick Sirianni uses Sanders. As we’ve seen under Former Eagles HC Doug Pederson, Miles Sanders wasn’t used nearly enough, and the Eagles can’t afford to have history repeat itself. Sirianni has to treat Sanders as his “bell cow” and lean on the young star moving forward, especially when the Eagles have a young QB in Jalen Hurts. A running back is the QB’s most important weapon and I will always stand by that no matter how highly wide receivers are looked at.
So, will he take that leap to go from good to great? Depending on the play-calling of Nick Sirianni, I believe Sanders has a breakout year and is amongst the top 10 in running back total yards and touchdowns. Take it to the bank people!
Photo Creds- NJ.com