LaDainian Tomlinson sees “greatness” in Miles Sanders, tells Doug Pederson to “give him the rock”
By ROB MAADDI
The Eagles added speed at wide receiver and gave Carson Wentz more weapons but the key to their success this season is a guy they already had.
Miles Sanders led all rookies with 1,327 scrimmage yards (818 rushing, 509 receiving) last year while only playing 52.6 percent of the offensive snaps. Jordan Howard is gone and the team didn’t add another veteran back so Sanders should get a bigger workload despite sitting out much of training camp with a hamstring injury.
But coach Doug Pederson has always preferred rotating his backs. Sanders had 179 carries last year, the most by any back under Pederson. LeGarrette Blount’s 173 attempts in 2017 is second most. Josh Adams led the way with 120 in 2018 and Ryan Mathews had 155 in 2016. In each of Pederson’s first four seasons, three running backs have had at least 60 carries.
It’s fine to use Boston Scott, Corey Clement and newcomer Jason Huntley for a change of pace, but Sanders needs to be a workhorse this season. Relying on Sanders to run the ball more will take pressure off an injury-depleted offensive line that needs to keep Wentz protected.
“Miles had a terrific year last year, and the question is will Doug give him the ball because he showed so much talent that I really think he can be the centerpiece of that offense and really help Carson Wentz out,” Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson told me last week. “I hope that he gets the opportunity to be the guy. Give him the rock. Let’s see how good he can really be because I think he has greatness in him.”
While the NFL has turned into a pass-happy league, a trend started to develop last season that saw the best running teams win more than the best passing teams.
The teams with the five top rushing offenses finished 55-25. Their .688 percentage was the best over the last five seasons. Meanwhile, the teams with the five top passing offenses finished 36-44, down from 46 wins in 2018. Their .450 winning percentage was worst over the last five seasons.
Sure, Wentz can be an MVP quarterback. He could thrive with a healthy DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Rookie Jalen Reagor had an impressive camp before he got hurt. Rookies John Hightower and Quez Watkins showed flashes of potential and even J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seems improved. Plus, Greg Ward is still around and Alshon Jeffrey should be back sooner than expected.
Still, Sanders needs to be the man. Give him 350 touches and he’ll get 2,000 total yards.
“I think that Miles can do it all, and when you have a guy like Miles that can make people miss, that can lower his shoulder and also run you over, you want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible and you trust him,” assistant coach Duce Staley said early in camp. “I think that’s what we are. We have Corey, we have Boston, we have a cast of younger guys, also, and we’ll see what they can do. But as much as I can give the ball to Miles and let him create and go out there and just kind of just trust him to do the right thing, I think do you it as much as possible.”
Now Duce has to convince Doug.