Miles Sanders is quickly approaching the true start of his NFL career with a chance to become a major contributor to the Eagles backfield.
But on Friday, he also was a journalist.
First, an open letter he wrote to Eagles fans was published in The Players’ Tribune. Then after practice, he grabbed a local TV station’s microphone to jokingly ask backfield mate Jordan Howard about a possible position change.
“Rumor has it that the Eagles are thinking about moving you to fullback next year: How do you feel about that?” Sanders asked.
Howard replied: “I think they’re moving Boston Scott to fullback. He’s like 5-3, 240.” (For the record, Scott, a running back on the practice squad, is listed at 5-foot-6, 203 pounds.)
Sanders, a Pittsburgh native, wrote about dealing with the expectations that came from being a star running back in Pennsylvania: “When I was coming up, people called me the next LeSean McCoy, which I was cool with because I always loved Shady’s game.” He succeeded Saquon Barkley at Penn State and was deemed “the next” iteration of the Giants running back.
Two days before his NFL debut, Sanders said he wanted observers to know that he’s trying to forge his own legacy.
“I don’t want to really get compared to anybody, I just want to be myself,” Sanders said.
He’s off to a good start. Sanders earned a significant role with the Eagles’ offensive starters both in the preseason and in training camp sessions. His burst and agility could be a premium in the backfield, where he figures to split his time primarily with Howard, with Corey Clement and Darren Sproles likely having specialized roles.
Sanders started the first game of the preseason against the Titans, and rushed for 34 yards on eight attempts in three games, 4.3 yards per carry.
“I think he’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “He’s integrated himself in the system. I think he’s comfortable with our running game.”
During the team’s open practice last month at the Linc, Sanders showcased his quickness with a jump cut that scored a “touchdown," further increasing the buzz surrounding the rookie.
But general manager Howie Roseman mentioned that Sanders is more than just a shifty runner.
“Miles has a chance to really contribute to this football team this year,” Roseman said. “He has a great combination of feet and power. I think that one of the things that maybe it’s hard to realize until you see Miles in pads, is how much power he plays with. He’s not afraid of lowering his shoulder, and really, he has some thump to him.”
The light mood in the locker room between the running backs isn’t a coincidence. Sanders said he hasn’t been too worried about his NFL debut. He said he hasn’t talked to the veteran running backs about what to expect; he’s mostly just eager to play a full, meaningful game.