With the Eagles saying goodbye to Jordan Howard in free agency and Darren Sproles to retirement, young Miles Sanders could be in line for a big year. Here are Sanders’ odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as his odds to win Offensive Player of the Year.
Sanders was just a one-year starter at Penn State because he had to wait behind Saquon Barkley. Sanders earned All-Big Ten honors as a junior in 2018 after ranking 2nd in the conference with a career-high 1,274 rushing yards, which are the 5th-most by a Penn State RB since 2000 (11th overall). He rushed for 9 TDs and posted 24 receptions for 139 yards.
The Eagles took Sanders with the No. 53 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Sanders was largely behind Jordan Howard as last season began but eventually took over the featured back role. During the first nine weeks of play, Howard’s snap counts ranged from 22.2% to 72.6%, waffling between 30% and over 50% a majority of the time. Sanders was on the field as few as 17.6% of snaps but did not exceed more 53.5%.
In a Week 15 win over the Redskins, Sanders passed LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson for the most rushing yards by a rookie and the most all-purpose yards by a rookie in franchise history, respectively. Only six NFL tailbacks produced 650+ scrimmage yards and 4+ TDs from Weeks 11-17: Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon and Sanders.
Sanders would eventually lead all rookies in all-purpose yards (1,641) and scrimmage yards (1,327) and produced the most rushing yards (818) in Eagles rookie history. Sanders, who totaled 13 plays of 20+ yards, also ranked 3rd among NFL RBs in scrimmage yards per touch (5.8), trailing only Austin Ekeler (6.9) and McCaffrey (5.9) (minimum 200 touches).
Sanders became just the seventh rookie in NFL history to record 800+ rushing yards and 500+ receiving yards, joining Barkley (2018), Edgerrin James (1999), Marshall Faulk (1994), Billy Sims (1980), Gale Sayers (1965) and Abner Haynes (1960).
Since 2007, only three NFL rookies have posted 1,300+ scrimmage yards and 300+ return yards: Sanders (2019), Alvin Kamara (2017) and Adrian Peterson (2007).
Sanders did suffer an ankle injury in Week 17 but he still played in the Wild-Card loss to Seattle, albeit then suffering a knee injury. He didn’t need offseason surgery. The Eagles didn’t sign any veteran free agents or spend a draft pick on a running back, leaving the job to Sanders with Boston Scott as the change of pace.
This is the first time in the Doug Pederson era the Eagles’ running back plans have been clear. In the final eight games of his rookie season, Sanders played 72 percent of the team’s snaps and averaged 18.4 touches. Now, this isn’t to suggest that Sanders will be regularly logging 20 carries per game. Only Derrick Henry made it over that mark last year (and just barely at 20.2).
Former Eagles star running back Brian Westbrook expects big things for Sanders in 2020, saying: “He understands that Carson Wentz has been injured in the postseason and he has to understand that the burden of carrying this team could land on his shoulders because of that injury history.”
Sanders will be a part of a new look Eagles offense led by Wentz. The Eagles drafted TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor in the first round and added Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round as an insurance policy for the oft-injured Wentz.
The Eagles are 6-point favorites for Week 1 at Washington.