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Can Eagles running back Miles Sanders handle the workload as a featured back? His position coach, Duce Staley, thinks so.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Can Eagles running back Miles Sanders handle the workload as a featured back? His position coach, Duce Staley, thinks so.

Running for Miles

As the window for the Eagles’ annual acquisition of a veteran running back late in the summer starts to close, it’s looking like there isn’t someone coming through that door.

Eagles assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley seemingly confirmed the team’s contentment with the current running back situation, even without a veteran or a proven thumper for short-yardage situations. The two leading backs as it currently sits are Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, both with one season of significant playing time and both more elusive than powerful.

“I have a [heck] of a room,” Staley said last week. “A bunch of young players that can play and play fast. ... Of course they’re young; we have Boston and we have Miles that have a ton of playing time. Even though they’re young, they’ve played a lot. I’m very happy with my room, and everybody’s role in the room.”

The Eagles have undrafted free agent Mike Warren and second-year running back Elijah Holyfield, both power backs in college. But the absence of a player like Jordan Howard or LeGarrette Blount is noticeable. It’s partly thanks to the Eagles’ offseason mission to get younger and faster, but also due to Sanders’ ascension.

The 2019 second-round pick will be a featured back, something the Eagles haven’t truly had since LeSean McCoy was traded in 2015. Sanders had 229 touches last season and should expect to be around 300 this season. McCoy exceeded 300 touches in a season three times as an Eagle and missed just one game in those three particular years. Sanders and McCoy are almost identically sized, both 5-foot-11 and roughly 210 pounds.

Staley thinks the same reason McCoy was able to endure heavy workloads will keep Sanders safe from injury as the main guy all season.

“I’m excited about him handling the full load,” Staley said. “I don’t think you have to be careful with him because it’s hard to get [to] him. I think you have to be careful with guys that can’t make people miss. If you put a big workload on those type of guys, this is a violent league, and injuries, we know, can happen at any time.

“But if you’ve got a guy who can make people miss and is kind of special like Miles, the injury risk goes down a little bit. The percentage goes down. I think he can go out there and he can handle that part of it. He showed last year. He flashed last year.”

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is confident the NFL season will go on as scheduled.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is confident the NFL season will go on as scheduled.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

What role will Wallace have year 1? Line up at LB a lot like Jenkins did or will that be Mills? — from Adam (@abomb020) on Twitter.

Good question, Adam. I would guess Jalen Mills spends more time playing at the line of scrimmage like Malcolm Jenkins, more so than K’Von Wallace at least early in the season. That’s not to say Wallace won’t eventually find a role in the defense; I actually think he has a good chance.

Wallace is a great athlete with positional versatility, so in a season that will likely be a war of attrition, I can’t imagine him going the whole season without filling in for somebody. In the long run, I think he has the upside to eventually fill at least some of the responsibilities Jenkins had, especially covering receivers in the slot, holding up against the run, and blitzing at times.

All that being said, everything is pointing to Mills’ being in Jenkins’ role this season. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was effusive in his praise of Mills’ skills and how it will translate to playing safety. Unsurprisingly, Mills is confident he can make the switch and, reading between the lines of McLeod’s comments Thursday, it sounds like the team is planning on Mills’ being the guy. Of course, a stellar training camp from Wallace could change things, so we’ll have to see.