At this point, the secret sauce for the Eagles offense is obvious. Run the football, run it some more, and then continue running it. Over the past three weeks, Nick Sirianni’s offense has averaged 208.6 yards on the ground per game.
For some inexplicable reason, the Eagles sudden commitment to the run coincided with the Miles Sanders injury. Jordan Howard and Boston Scott have been the beneficiaries of Sanders’ absence. The two have combined for 392 yards and they’re coming of a game in which they both averaged over six yards per carry.
Typically, integrating a talent like Sanders back into the offense is pretty simple. But with the emergence of Howard and Scott and the sheer dominance of the Eagles rushing attack without Sanders, it begs the question: How exactly will Sanders be re-integrated into Sirianni’s game plan?
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One of the Eagles backs will see a drop in touches once Sanders is back in the lineup — which could be as soon as this week. He’s eligible to come off IR and he did tease a return on social media just last week.
One of the common theories as to why Howard and Scott have been utilized more than Sanders was in the first seven weeks of the season is that they fit Sirianni’s offense better. They’re north-south runners who don’t hesitate to hit the hole. Sanders is a big play waiting to happen, and sometimes his tendency to always want to hit the homerun can result in negative plays.
But nevertheless, that big play ability has still been lacking in this Eagles rushing attack recently. The duo of Scott and Howard have combined for seven runs over 15 yards since Week 8. Sanders has five runs of over 15 yards this season and he was only averaging nine rushing attempts per game before getting hurt.
A steady running game that can bang out five yards a pop is undeniably important, but having a guy who can break a long one every once in awhile helps. In the NFL, having a dynamic offense that can score in a multitude of ways is the mark of a good offense. Right now, the Eagles really only have one mode of operation. Churn out yards in the running game and sustain long drives en route to the end zone. Sanders adds another valuable element to that attack and makes this offense more dynamic.
So who will see a drop in touches once Sanders is back?
It’s hard to say, but I don’t envision Sirianni dialing up as many designed runs for Jalen Hurts once Sanders is available. Hurts is a pivotal aspect of this rushing attack but the last thing this offense needs is a Hurts injury.
Sanders should remain the feature back once he returns, with Scott and Howard getting the bulk of short yardage carries and a handful of first down carries throughout the game. Kenny Gainwell can remain in his role as the third down/receiving back.
Sanders’ return is only going to make this offense better. And adding his big play ability to this rushing attack could propel the Eagles towards a playoff run.