In a year riddled with injuries and inconsistent play on the offensive side of the ball, rookie running back Miles Sanders was one of the few bright spots. He started off the year playing second fiddle to Jordan Howard, but once Howard got hurt during the bye week, Sanders assumed the starting role in the backfield and never looked back.
During the final eight games of the regular season, Sanders averaged over 100 total yards per game. The rookie finished his 2019 campaign with 1,327 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns. He shattered every Eagles rookie record in terms of rushing yards and all-purpose yards as well.
He was essentially the lifeblood of the offense during their four game winning streak to end the season. Carson Wentz gets a lot of the credit for carrying this team to the playoffs, but if it wasn’t for Sanders keeping defenses on their toes in both the rushing and passing game, the Eagles probably wouldn’t have made the postseason in 2019.
So after such a prolific rookie season, what should we expect out of the running back in his sophomore year? Will be pick up right where he left off, or will we see a second year slump out of Sanders?
Given the fact that the front office let both Jordan Howard and Corey Clement leave in free agency, the team clearly views Sanders as their undisputed No. 1 back heading into the season. He’ll certainly get a lot more touches in year two after showcasing the kind of versatility he brings to the position.
If we look at the Eagles recent history of young running backs transitioning from their first year to their second, you’ll notice a pretty promising trend. For example, LeSean McCoy saw a big jump in production during his second season in similar circumstances to Sanders.
McCoy played behind Brian Westbrook at the start of his rookie year. Westbrook went down with injury, and then McCoy was given the opportunity to be the premiere back. Once Westbrook left town that offseason, McCoy stepped up with the extra touches he was given and produced a 1,000 yard rushing season.
Speaking of Westbrook, he too saw a leap in production from year one to year two. He played behind Duce Staley for a large portion of his rookie season, then Duce struggled with injuries the following season, leaving the door open for Westbrook.
Westbrook ended up scoring 11 total touchdowns that year and cemented himself as the Eagles starting back.
History has a knack for repeating itself, especially in the world of football. Sanders having another standout year should be expected in 2020, barring any kind of injury.
Sanders should eclipse 1,000 yards rushing, which would make him the first back to do so under Doug Pederson, and I would expect him to rack up the receiving yards as well. I don’t think a 1,500 all-purpose yard season is that far fetched for Sanders.
He has a bright future here in Philly.