Eagles: Miles Sanders is entering a make or break season

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There are a handful of Eagles players who have a lot to prove in 2022. Among them, is running back Miles Sanders, who enters the season with one year remaining on his rookie contract.

Sanders has been an electric back since joining the Eagles as a second-round pick in 2019. For his career, he’s averaged 5.1 yards per carry and he’s posted 52 explosive runs (runs of 10 yards or more) during his three-year stint with the Eagles. Sanders recorded a career-high 20 explosive runs in 2021 while also averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry. Not to mention, the Penn State product finished the year with his best Pro Football Focus grade to date, earning a 71.6 offensive grade, which ranked 27th among 62 qualifying backs.

Although sanders has proven to be an explosive playmaker for the Eagles offense, he’s had trouble finding any kind of consistency in his game. Some of that is due to injuries. Sanders has appeared in 24 of a possible 33 games over the past two years.

When he is on the field, Sanders has struggled in the passing game, both on the receiving and blocking end. His PFF pass blocking grade of 46.0 in 2021 was his worst mark in the category to date. As a receiver, Sanders hasn’t been able to find much success on that front either. He was an excellent receiver as a rookie, totaling 50 receptions for 509 yards and three touchdowns. Since then, Sanders has accumulated 54 receptions for 544 yards and hasn’t found the end zone once through the air.

Unless the former second-round pick can recapture the receiving ability he saw as a rookie, it’s hard to imagine Howie Roseman will hand him a significant contract extension next offseason. The fact that he plays such a replaceable position also factors into that decision. Howie has been reluctant to sign any of his running backs to big contracts during his tenure as the Eagles GM. LeSean McCoy was the last one to receive a big contract, and he holds numerous Eagles rushing records.

Nick Sirianni may not even ask Sanders to do much receiving in 2022. Kenneth Gainwell proved last year to be a very capable receiver out of the backfield and he’s primed for a bigger role this season. Gainwell recorded 33 receptions for 253 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, while only playing 29% of the team’s offensive snaps. PFF handed him a receiving grade of 73.6 and a pass blocking grade of 76.2. Sanders has failed to reach those marks during any year of his career.

On one hand, seeing Sanders have a breakout year would obviously help the Eagles reach their postseason aspirations. But on the other, a Sanders breakout campaign likely means a hefty payday when the season is over, and based on Howie’s history, he won’t try to outbid any team that wants to throw a Brink’s truck Sanders’ way.

The only way Sanders will return in 2023 is on a team friendly deal. His skill set is best utilized in a committee backfield, which is what the Eagles have built over the past few years. It’ll also help keep some tread on the tires and Sanders could have a longer career because of it.

Convincing a professional athlete that splitting time is in their best interest is never easy, so we shouldn’t expect Sanders to take the bait here. But it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.

This upcoming season won’t define Sanders’ as a player, but it will certainly determine his Eagles future.

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