Eagles facing ground game tweaks with Miles Sanders return looming

Miles Sanders
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles’ backfield could get a little more crowded after the team announced Wednesday that they have activated the 21-day practice window of No. 1 running back Miles Sanders.

It means that Sanders could start as soon as Sunday’s meeting with the New Orleans Saints after missing three games with an ankle injury.

While on the shelf, Sanders watched as the Eagles suddenly made an investment in their ground game.

After not attempting more than 32 rushes in each of their first seven games while averaging 23 carries per game, first-year head coach Nick Sirianni changed up his game plan and went to the two-headed reserve attack of Boston Scott and Jordan Howard early and often.

Along with the dual-threat of quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles have averaged 41 carries for 208 yards over their last three games — two of them victories.

The potential re-introduction of Sanders would only add more talent to the Eagles’ backfield, though it may force some tweaks to the play-calling schemes to ensure the No. 1 back gets enough of the ball. But Sirianni alluded that recency bias is a major factor, as discussed on Monday.

“You do ride the hot hand as you go,” Sirianni told NBC Sports Philadelphia at the time. “As we’re calling the game, [offensive coordinator Shane Steichen] and I are calling the game and going through it, that’s something that is left up to [running backs coach Jemal Singleton] in a lot of senses because he’s got the feel of what’s going on in there.

“But there are also plays on our call sheet and it could be anywhere from 10 to 15 plays out of all the plays on your call sheet. It could be more than that, where you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m in 11-personnel and I want 14 in the game.’ And so, that’s dictated out before. Or, ‘I’m in 12-personnel and I want 24 in the game.’ It can be any of those. So sometimes, yes, it’s done throughout the week and sometimes it is the feel of the way the game is going.

“That’s the answer, is that we handle it both ways. So I’m pleased with the way the running back rotation has gone.”

As luck would have it, though, Sanders could be returning against a Saints defense that is the stingiest run unit in the NFL. They’ve allowed a league-low 656 yards this season with an average of just 3.1 yards per carry.

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