Earlier this week, Miles Sanders went to Nickell Robey-Coleman for insider secrets on Aaron Donald.
The Eagles' running back is fully recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the season opener last Sunday and spent this week preparing for the Los Angeles Rams' disruptive defensive tackle. Sanders and Donald are Pittsburgh natives who worked out together at times during the offseason, but Sanders wanted to check with Robey-Coleman, the Eagles' new slot cornerback who spent three seasons as Donald’s teammate.
“I was just asking him how he was like in practice," Sanders said. "I’m pretty sure he’s a monster in practice. He’s probably going hard every play. I work out with him the offseason sometimes when I go back to Pittsburgh, so I know him a little more than people think. I just know you don’t win defensive player of the year two times in a row for no reason.”
During those training sessions, Sanders said the biggest takeaway was how the 6-foot-1, 280-pound interior rusher moves.
“He moves like me, so it’s very frustrating,” Sanders said.
Sanders will have to move quicker than Donald this Sunday for the Eagles to stabilize the running attack that was often stagnant in Week 1. The 23-year-old missed nearly all of training camp with a hamstring injury. He was not listed on the injury report Friday afternoon, meaning he’ll play Sunday.
He was questionable for last week’s 27-17 loss to Washington, but he was ruled out the day before the game and didn’t travel with the team.
For the first time since the Eagles drafted him in the second round of the 2019 draft, Sanders watched the Birds play on TV. He said he felt he could have played last week, but the team training staff wanted him to take extra time to ensure he wouldn’t aggravate his injury and miss more time. By most accounts, pulled hamstrings can linger even after players feel 100%.
“Hamstring injuries are very tricky and unpredictable," Sanders said. “I felt good [last week], it was actually the first week I felt good, so they didn’t want to just throw me in that same week. I just trusted the training staff and the coaches on the decision. What’s important is that I’m playing this week.”
The Eagles' running game struggled in Sanders' absence last week. The group, led by Boston Scott and Corey Clement, rushed for 57 yards on 17 attempts. Scott led the team in yards and carries, with 35 yards on nine attempts.
Considering the extended practice time he’s missed, there’s a chance the Eagles will give Sanders the DeSean Jackson treatment in his first game back and strategically limit his snaps to avoid reinjury.
Sanders said he’s hopeful he won’t be on a play count, though.
“I feel 100%. I’m ready to go. I hope not,” Sanders said. “But like I said, I’m willing to do whatever the coaches [say]. Whatever’s in the best interest for me or the team, I’m willing to do whatever.”
Behind the name
Sanders' return will give him the first chance to don a helmet with Antwon Rose’s name on the back.
The NFL allows players to have the name of someone affected by racial inequality and Sanders chose to honor Rose, a former classmate at Woodland Hills High School who was shot and killed by a police officer in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Sanders spoke about the decision one day after Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey announced he’d no longer have Rose’s name on the back of his helmet. The entire Steelers team originally planned to have the name on each player’s helmet, but some players resisted, saying they didn’t know all the facts when they agreed to do so.
Michael Rosfeld, the police officer who killed Rose, said the 17-year-old was one of two people running from a car that matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld, who had been part of the force for just three weeks before the incident, said he thought one of the teenagers pointed a gun at him but didn’t know which one, according to media reports. Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide and acquitted after a four-day trial.
The Eagles' running back said he knows more than the public does about the situation and will support Rose, who was shot in the back, face, and elbow by the officer.
“I really don’t care what people think,” Sanders said. “I knew him personally. We went to the same high school, shared the same hallways, so I knew him as a kid and I actually know more of the story that people don’t know. It looks bad, the way it looks ... he was still an unarmed black man that was shot in the back by a police officer. He was nowhere near dangerous to that police officer. So that’s why it’s important for me to represent that. ... I don’t really care what people think about the situation. It may look the way it does, but I truly know him as a person and his family.”