DENVER — Jordan Howard and Boston Scott’s success over the last three games has been instrumental in the Eagles’ offensive resurgence, but it also begs a significant question.
What happens when Miles Sanders gets back?
For the second time in three games, the Eagles’ backup running backs both surpassed 50 rushing yards. In the Eagles’ 30-13 win against the Broncos on Sunday, they ran for more than 80 yards apiece and allowed Eagles coach Nick Sirianni to stay balanced in his play-calling during the first half and then salt away the clock in the second half.
Howard feared his career was over last offseason, but he has been a bright spot in the last three games since Sanders went on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He has rushed for 211 yards on 41 carries, good for 5.1 yards per attempt. He scored has three touchdowns.
Scott has had similar production, gaining 181 yards on 33 carries with two scores.
“I can’t say enough about how Jordan Howard and Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell have stepped in in the absence of Miles Sanders,” Sirianni said. “We know how good of a player Miles Sanders is; we really look forward to getting him back, but, man, they’ve been running hard. They’re hard to tackle; they’re hard to get down.”
Since the Eagles elevated Howard off the practice squad and onto the active roster last week, the Eagles will have to make a decision on whether to keep four backs on the 53-man roster once Sanders comes off IR. The 24-year-old running back is eligible to return as early as this week after missing three games, and he was at practice last week watching from the sidelines.
Even if they keep four, they’ll have to decide how to divvy up carries. Sanders was the team’s primary back before getting hurt and, unfortunately for him, Sirianni’s newfound reliance on the run came just in time for him to be sidelined. When Sanders returns, Sirianni will have to decide between the backups who have found success or Sanders, arguably the most talented running back on the roster.
“We are going to have some tough decisions,” he added. “That’s a good problem to have. We’ll do whatever we think’s necessary to win the next game, but they’ve done a great job filling in.”
Howard has had a turbulent few years in the NFL. He started his career as a 1,000-yard rusher in consecutive seasons with the Chicago Bears and even made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. In the last three years, though, he has bounced around between the Miami Dolphins and Eagles practice squads and has had limited playing opportunities.
He thought he’d be forced into early retirement after garnering very little interest in free agency, but the Eagles signed him going into training camp. Howard said he slimmed down going into this season, about 11 pounds, and he seems to be benefiting from the weight loss. He’s still a physical runner, but he’s quicker than before.
Before the game, Howard acknowledged the possibility that he could end up back on the sideline once Sanders returns, but said even a limited chance to play in the regular season is something he wouldn’t take for granted.
“I would just be glad that I got to play a few games,” Howard said. “That’s all I wanted, just an opportunity to play and show what I can do. I’m just grateful for that.”
Goedert leaves with concussion
Dallas Goedert left Sunday’s game with a concussion after taking a blow to the head.
The Eagles’ No. 1 tight end took the hit after making a 24-yard catch in the first quarter and was slow to get up. Broncos safety Justin Simmons delivered the blow, which appeared to be helmet-to-helmet contact, but wasn’t called a penalty.
Goedert has been one of Jalen Hurts’ favorite targets this season, especially after the team traded veteran tight end Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals last month. He’s had 14 catches for 213 yards since Ertz was traded.
The Eagles were down to two undrafted rookies (Jack Stoll and Tyree Jackson) at the position once Goedert went down. If he misses extended time, the Eagles could elevate veteran practice squad tight end Richard Rodgers.