Pederson doing a great job with Howard, Sanders

Eliot Shorr-Parks
October 07, 2019 - 8:16 am
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Jordan Howard or Miles Sanders?

That has been the questions asked since almost the second the Eagles selected Sanders with their second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, a draft position high enough to guarantee him playing time as rookie. 

Would Sanders be the No. 1 back? Or would they lean on Howard, who has carried the ball at least 250 times in each of his three seasons in the NFL, as their top option out of the back field. 

Through five games, the option appears to be both. 

Although Howard has been featured slightly more lately, head coach Doug Pederson has done a nice job so far this season making sure both are involved in the offense, and the touches between Howard and Sanders have been nearly identical. 

So far this season Howard has 53 carries for 248 yards to go along with six catches for 47 yards, bringing his total to 59 touches. Sanders has slightly more, at a total of 64 touches (54 carries, 10 catches), for 326 yards. 

Break those numbers down, and Howard is averaging exactly 5.0 yards per touch, while Sanders — despite public perception he is being outplayed — is actually averaging slightly more yards per touch (5.09 yards). 

The main difference between the two has been in the passing game and in the end zone. 

The Eagles have clearly decided Sanders is the back they trust the most in the passing game, as he is on the field in obvious passing downs due to both his ability to pass block and the job he has done bringing in the passes that have come his way. Sanders is averaging 13.3 yards-per-reception on 10 catches. No running back in the NFL is averaging more yards-per-reception than Sanders is through five weeks of the season. 

Howard, meanwhile, has been the team’s main option at the goal line. Over the last three games Howard has four touchdowns from inside the five-yard line on the ground, getting the majority of those touches over Sanders. 

It will be interesting to see how Pederson continues to use both the remainder of the season. Sanders has played better than many believe, but there is no denying that to the eye-test, he has not made the most of the yards there to be had on the ground. After getting double-digit rushes on the ground in each of the first four games, Sanders had nine against the Jets. Howard, on the other hand, didn’t crack double-digit carries the first two weeks — but has the last three. That is a trend worth monitoring, as it appears Howard is starting to become the top option on the ground, while Sanders had more targets in the passing game on Sunday than he has had all season. 

How it plays out isn’t clear, but one thing is — the answer to the question that has been asked for months is not Jordan Howard. It is not Miles Sanders. 

The answer is both, and so far, Pederson has handled the duo to perfection. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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