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Miles Sanders could be set for big rookie season

Eliot Shorr-Parks
September 07, 2019 - 7:36 am

There might not be another general manager in the league who knows the value of an asset like Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. 

He is excellent at utilizing his cap space. He prioritizes the right positions. He rarely overpays or overdrafts. 

That is why it was obvious how much the team really liked running back Mile Sanders when they selected him with their first-pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Roseman knows the value of a running back and knows the shelf-life. The fact he was willing to use a high pick on Sanders showed he felt the running back would make an instant impact. 

That is why it would be wise to buy as much stock as possible in Sanders before the team’s game on Sunday against the Washington Redskins kicks off — because chances are that stock is only going to rise. 

"In all phases," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said this week,  "we got a lot of confidence in Miles."

Now that Sanders has gone through an entire training camp with the team, it is clear he the most talented running back on the roster. From the second Sanders started taking reps with the first-team offense in August it was clear he was simply different from the other backs each time he touched the ball. He is faster than Jordan Howard. He is more elusive than Corey Clement. He is bigger than Darren Sproles. Sanders obviously has room to grow, but for a win-now team like the Eagles, the best player is going to play — and Sanders is clearly the best running back they have. 

As impressive as Sanders has been with the ball in his hands, it is the job he has done in pass protection that will get him on the field Sunday. For a pass-first team like the Eagles it is a must for their running backs to be able to pass protect and read where the blitz is coming from. The coaches appear to be comfortable enough with where Sanders is as a pass protector to put him in right away. Sunday will be the first test to see if they are right. 

"Miles is dialed in on his protections," Groh said. "Just like all running backs in the NFL, they'll be put in some challenging positions where they got to block some backers that are running downhill on them that are big guys and got bad intentions, but I know he's capable."

If the Eagles are right it might not be long until Sanders is their clear-cut, No. 1 running back. Head coach Doug Pederson will always lean towards a running back by committee approach, but he has also shown he is willing to ride the hot hand of his best back. Last season, when rookie running back Josh Adams got hot, Pederson gave it to him 22 times in a Week 12 win over the New York Giants — 17 more times than any other running back on the team. Adams got the ball 20 times the following week — 15 more times than any other running back on the team. If Sanders is getting the job done Pederson will give him the ball and leave the other running backs on the bench. 

Which bring us back to the asset Roseman invested in Sanders. 

Sanders was the first running back the team has drafted in the second round since LeSean McCoy in 2009. Prior to picking Sanders the highest pick Roseman had used on a running back was a fourth-round pick. For a general manager that values assets the way Roseman does, using a premium one on a running back was not a move he would have made if Sanders wasn’t going to play early and often. 

Jordan Howard might be a veteran, Corey Clement might have played in big games for this team and Darren Sproles might be in the Hall of Fame one day, but none of them have as much invested in them right now by the team as Sanders does. 

Roseman and the front office will want Sanders to succeed. The coaching staff trusts he can right away. 

The result, in a high-powered offense like the Eagles, is going to be a big season from Sanders. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at!