Being named Pennsylvania’s Mr. Football in his senior year was the crowning glory of a fabled high school career for the Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back, Miles Sanders. With dreams of following other Penn State greats into the NFL, Sanders signed to play for the Nittany Lions, figuring that he and incumbent star Saquon Barkley would be a 1-2 punch in the backfield. Instead, Sanders was used sparingly his first two years at Penn State, giving him one season — his junior year — to show off his explosive talents.
Look what we found in the second round
With the NFL Draft no longer being an event to showcase most college running backs, it’s no surprise the Philadelphia Eagles landed Miles Sanders in the second round in 2019 — pick No. 53 to be exact. Sanders was the talk of training camp with many observers seeing the native of Western Pennsylvania as the team’s star of the future. Along with newcomer Jordan Howard, fans and pundits envisioned a resurgence for a team sorely lacking in running backs for many years.
“The Eagles are going to have a tough time keeping Sanders off the field. He’s extremely shifty, and it feels like there’s a chance he might break off a long run every time he touches the ball,” NJ.com reporter Zack Rosenblatt said in July 2019.
Miles Sanders comes through in the clutch
Miles Sanders’ impact was uneven for the first eight games, mirroring the team’s slow start. He played a key role in the Eagles’ 34-27 win against the usually stingy Green Bay Packer defense. Carrying the ball 11 times, he picked up 72 yards in somewhat of a coming-out party for the young star.
However, when starter Jordan Howard went down in Week 9, Sanders stepped up. Much of his contribution was on the field, but his spirit and enthusiasm helped lift the team to the NFC East title. In the four-game run to a ticket to the playoffs, Sanders rushed about 300 yards and caught 18 passes for some 150 yards.
Playoff berth cements Miles Sanders’ Rookie of the Year status
Alongside Arizona Cardinals quarterback (and first-round pick, No. 1 overall) Kyler Murray and Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs (also a first-rounder), Miles Sanders rounds out the candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Murray was close to delivering on his promise as a savior to the Cardinals but came up more as Lamar Jackson Lite. As a dual-threat QB, he rushed for more than 500 yards and threw for close to 3,400 yards with 18 TDs and 10 picks. Nonetheless, the team went 5-10-1 and finished dead last in the NFC West.
Josh Jacobs had a superb first season in the NFL for the Raiders, rushing for more than 1,100 yards for a team that went a disappointing 7-9 in the AFC West. Jacobs was one dimensional in his offensive production, with only 166 yards receiving on 20 passes.
Miles Sanders was the only one of the trio whose team made the playoffs with the team’s leading rusher playing a key role in the accomplishment. For the year, Sanders rushed for 818 yards with a 4.6 yards per carry average (to Jacobs’ 4.8 yards per carry). Additionally, Sanders caught 50 passes for 509 yards, surpassing Jacobs in total yards from scrimmage.
Sanders also broke former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy’s rookie rushing record as well as DeSean Jackson’s rookie record for yards from scrimmage.And, by the way, Miles Sanders is not lacking in confidence: “I’m going to go out there and do my job regardless, but when you have guys banged up like that and the type of season I’m having?” Sanders said in an interview before the Eagles victory over Dallas on Dec. 22. “Lock in and put the game on my shoulders and let’s go ball out.”