PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Miles Sanders certainly fits all of the criteria any NFL coach would look for in a running back. At 5-foot-11, 211 pounds, he possesses good size and he can cut back and dart through holes in the tackle box.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson definitely believes in the second-round pick out of Penn State.
“I think he’s done a great job with us so far,” Pederson said. “The biggest concern coming into camp was obviously the health issue with coming out of the spring being injured a little bit. But I think he’s checked that box.
“Obviously, he’ll have a role for us. It’s good to have those two guys back there who are different runners but at the same time give us that running game that was missed a year ago.”
Sanders has emerged as the No. 1 back in a competitive group that includes Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Super Bowl LII hero Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams and Boston Scott.
Sanders has shown he can block, as he did last week picking up a blitzing linebacker to buy enough time for Clayton Thorson to hit Greg Ward with a 38-yard touchdown pass. The play showed Sanders’ awareness and how quickly he can step forward in closing gaps. He’s explosive, powerful and showed at Penn State he can catch.
He’s more LeSean McCoy than he is Brian Westbrook. But he’s like McCoy in how he’s able to stop, cut and then go. Sanders, so far, doesn’t appear to possess the kind of breakaway speed McCoy and Westbrook had.
The Eagles will also be watching how tightly Sanders carries the ball. He fumbled 10 times last year at Penn State, losing seven. In comparison, Howard has fumbled four times over three years in the NFL.
Ball security may be the one big drawback still looming over Sanders. Otherwise, Clement has shown flashes of his 2017 self, Sproles has also looked effective at times, while Adams, Scott and Howard haven’t really distinguished themselves.
Though Howard was supposed to be the Eagles’ go-to back this season, it looks like the No. 1 spot is for Sanders to lose.