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Rocky road for Miles Sanders

There are a plethora of questions facing the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021. Can new head coach Nick Sirianni turn things around after a dismal 4-12 season? Is Jalen Hurts a franchise quarterback? Will any of their visiting opponents accidentally book reservations at Four Seasons Total Landscaping?

And then there’s the question of how the Eagles’ backfield will shake out. Top running back Miles Sanders should lead the team in rushing attempts, but will he get enough to eclipse BetMGM’s line of 1000.5 rushing yards?

Burner Sanders

Sanders is an exceptional home run threat, ripping off three runs of 74+ yards last season. If he can replicate that kind of performance in 2021, that would go a long way towards hitting the over on this player prop.

Another way of looking at this, though, is that 27% of his 2020 rushing yard total came on three runs. If we see any kind of regression in these huge plays, it’s suddenly a much tougher road to tread.

Further complicating matters for Sanders’ outlook, quarterbacks ran for 31% of the Eagles’ rushing yards last year. That was with Hurts starting only four games, so we can pretty much bank on that percentage being even higher this season.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders ran for 867 yards in 2020. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders ran for 867 yards in 2020. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

The committee of brotherly love?

The Penn State alum has never had more than 20 carries in an NFL game, and although Sirianni may not be the kind of committee-loving coach Doug Pederson was, his time as offensive coordinator in Indianapolis showed us that he’s far from a workhorse RB kind of guy. 

Sanders shared touches in camp with Boston Scott, prompting Eagles beat writer Eliot Shorr-Parks to tweet that the two backs “could end up basically splitting touches this season.” The most likely scenario for this backfield is Sanders working on first and second down, with Scott and aptly-named rookie Kenneth Gainwell mixing in as third down and change-of-pace backs. 

Sanders’ 53.8% catch rate last year was the lowest of any NFL running back and an issue which persisted in training camp. Having a pair of pass-catching specialists in Scott and Gainwell relegates him to the bench in two-minute drills and in game scripts where the Eagles are playing catch-up. With Philly favored in only two games this season, that may be a significant number of snaps that Sanders misses out on.

There are too many flags here for my preference, and that’s not even taking into account the four games Sanders missed last year due to a hamstring injury and knee sprain. I lean under 1000.5 rushing yards.

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