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Eagles RB Miles Sanders: ‘To have a successful offense, you have to run the ball’

Sanders carried the ball only twice at Dallas, but he's saying all the right things as coach Nick Sirianni attempts to explain not getting the ball into his running back's hands more.

Miles Sanders runs past Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the second quarter Monday night.
Miles Sanders runs past Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the second quarter Monday night.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Shortly after 5 a.m. Tuesday, the Eagles’ team charter landed following their blowout loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. It was around then, with the sun already rising, that running back Miles Sanders stepped into his Mercedes and made the roughly 30-minute trek to his home.

The previous evening, Sanders had been an afterthought in first-year coach Nick Sirianni’s offensive game plan. Sanders, who has recorded the third-highest total of scrimmage yards per touch in the league since 2019, rushed just two times for 27 yards against Dallas. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell also rushed once for 2 yards as Eagles running backs finished with just three total carries.

During his drive home, Sanders bumped rap tunes from his iPhone’s playlist. How much time did he spend thinking about his lack of touches in Week 3?

“I didn’t dwell on it too much,” Sanders said Wednesday. “It is what it is. I can only control what I can control. The game was pretty much out of hand early. So I can see how the game plan didn’t go as planned. There was kind of a panic from the whole team based on how the game went.

“But I didn’t question it or show any type of [feelings].”

Since the loss Monday night, Sirianni has shown remorse about the way Sanders was deployed against the Cowboys. Besides his two carries, Sanders caught three passes for 28 yards.

“Does he need more than five touches? Of course,” Sirianni said. “The way the game went, he didn’t get that. When guys are down because of their role and we expect more out of their role, whether they didn’t accomplish it on their own or I didn’t give them a chance to accomplish it, we’ve got to pick guys up. That’s what a team does, pick them up and let them know that you believe in them still.

“As far as Miles getting touches, there’s no doubt, we’ve got to get our playmakers the ball. He’s shown that he’s a playmaker, whether it’s in screen game, whether it’s out of the backfield or getting the ball.”

Immediately following the loss, Jalen Hurts was mostly conservative while discussing Sanders’ usage. But on Wednesday afternoon, the second-year Eagles quarterback didn’t hold back.

“He’s a pivotal part of this offense,” Hurts said. “He’s one of the best running backs in the league. He’s got to get his.”

» READ MORE: Eagles-Cowboys: What We Learned: Jalen Hurts may not be the QB for this coach

Asked about run-pass option plays leading to an imbalanced ratio of running and passing plays, Sirianni said, “I’m OK with living with that as far as the ratio because we’re reading a guy. We’re not blocking a guy, which it creates better angles for the entire offensive line when you do that, because you’re just reading, ‘What did you do? Oh, you did that? I hand it off. Oh, you did this? I pull it.’ I’m comfortable with that. We count those as runs.”

Heading into Week 3 at Dallas, Sanders acknowledged he was a “big part” of the team’s game plan. But things changed when the Eagles offense started the game with a turnover and consecutive three-and-outs. It didn’t help that the Eagles played from behind the entire game, but still, Sanders received only two carries.

Since being selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, he has proven to be an electric part of the offense who should be used regardless of the situation. Sanders currently leads the league in most yards per carry on first down with an average of 8.9 yards. Since 2019, Sanders ranks fourth among NFL tailbacks in rushing average with 4.9 yards per carry, behind only Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb. That’s some elite company.

Before the Eagles returned to the team facility for a walk-through practice Wednesday afternoon, Hurts reached out to the running backs individually. His overall message to them was to stick together. The Eagles face a quick turnaround in Week 4 — they will host the Kansas City Chiefs (also 1-2) on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“We have a lot of ball left to play,” Sanders said. “I’m not doubting Coach. It’s on to this week. It’s on to Kansas City. We ain’t doubting nobody. We ain’t doubting Coach Sirianni. We ain’t doubting Jalen. This is new to Sirianni, with this head coaching stuff, and Jalen is getting his first actual start at quarterback with a whole year in front of him. So this stuff is new for them.”

Sanders was reluctant to point any fingers, but when asked about the ingredients to a potent offense, he offered his opinion.

“Not necessarily for myself — but I do believe to have a successful offense,” Sanders said, “you have to run the ball.”