The Philadelphia Eagles are hot off their best performance of the season. By trouncing the Detroit Lions 44-6, they proved they shouldn’t be completely written off for the remainder of the year. They may not be a playoff-caliber team. However, they’re also not a bottom-feeder like Detroit, the Houston Texans, or even the Miami Dolphins.
With that said, the Eagles’ victory did not come without drama. They transformed into a run-first team, something they haven’t done all season. They rushed 46 times for 236 yards and four touchdowns. It was complete domination.
However, what makes the Eagles’ newfound affinity for the run game surprising is that Miles Sanders, their usual number one running back, wasn’t on the field.
Eagles running back Miles Sanders is on IR
Before the Eagles’ Week 8 game against the Lions, they made the move to place Sanders on injured reserve. The former Penn State RB hurt his ankle during the team’s Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders and will now be required to miss a minimum of three weeks.
Sanders’ season was off to a slow start before his injury. He logged just 300 yards on 63 carries, with the Eagles’ new coaching staff showing an overall reluctance to feed him. “Run the ball” chants were a frequent occurrence inside Lincoln Financial Field during Philly home games.
With Sanders now nursing an injured ankle, it seems even more likely that his season total will end on the lower side. This is especially concerning when you consider Sanders’ numbers already regressed from his rookie season to sophomore season. The current campaign was supposed to be the year he re-established himself as the Eagles’ franchise back.
Are the Eagles phasing Sanders out?
The Eagles absolutely dominated running the football against the Lions, and they did so without using an established feature back. Back-of-the-depth-chart RBs Boston Scott and Jordan Howard combined for 117 yards and four touchdowns, while rookie Kenneth Gainwell chipped in an additional 27 late in the fourth quarter. Even QB Jalen Hurts got in on the action, rushing for a game-high 71 yards on seven carries.
Following weeks of cries to “run the damn ball,” Nick Sirianni finally did. However, he didn’t do so in the manner everyone expected. He leaned on various carriers throughout the game, never getting too comfortable with one set of legs.
This spells trouble for Miles Sanders.
On the outside looking in, it’s starting to feel like the Eagles simply don’t have faith in Sanders’ ability to be a stereotypical three-down back. With a contract extension looming in the distance, it’s worth pondering whether the Eagles have their 2019 second-round pick inked into their plans.
Could an offseason trade be on the horizon?
If the Eagles are, in fact, looking to build around a cheap running back committee as opposed to Sanders, an offseason trade for the Penn State alum would make the most sense.
Sanders would presumably welcome a fresh start at this stage of his career as well. It must have been frustrating to watch the Eagles’ coaching staff finally commit to the run after weeks of ignoring it.
It’s doubtful the Eagles manage to recoup the second-round pick they spent on Sanders. However, dealing him for a Day 3 pick in the offseason feels reasonable. Plenty of teams out there would happily hand Sanders the ball 20-plus times a game.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.