Good morning, Eagles fans. Hopefully this newsletter finds you healthy and refreshed from a long weekend still chortling about Nick Foles trolling Tom Brady during this weekend’s charity golf match between Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson. I’d make a joke about Brady’s golf game, but there’s plenty of faults in my own to keep me busy.
Foles wasn’t the only one making a statement on social media, though. You may or may not have seen it, but Miles Sanders made a somewhat surprising declaration in an Instagram video last week, calling next season his “MVP year.” More on that later.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With Carlos Hyde headed to Seattle, the Eagles appear to still be on the market for a short-yardage power running back. The team was reportedly interested in adding Hyde, but the 29-year-old chose to join the Seahawks.
The Eagles are no doubt looking to build around Miles Sanders as a lead runner with Boston Scott as a complementary Darren Sproles-esque backfield mate. Corey Clement could carve out a role, too. He’s finished the last two seasons on injured reserve after a promising rookie season in 2017, and was re-signed last month to a one-year deal.
The 2017 running back group, with LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi leading the way and Clement and Sproles playing specialized roles, has been the model the last two seasons.
This upcoming season’s running back stable comes with one significant difference, regardless of who the Eagles do or don’t add, though. They’ll have a back who could command the lion’s share of carries and touches per game.
Sanders’ MVP year proclamation is obviously a bold one, but — just for kicks — what would that look like? Christian McCaffrey received the most MVP votes for a running back last year and finished sixth in the overall voting. If Sanders hopes to be in next year’s conversation, he’d have to put up similar or better numbers than the Panthers’ multipurpose back.
McCaffrey had a league-leading 2,392 yards from scrimmage last year. Sanders was 16th with 1,327, which led all rookies. McCaffrey averaged 5.9 yards per touch last season on 403 touches. Sanders finished the year gaining 5.8 yards per 229. To surpass McCaffrey’s 2019 numbers, Sanders is going to need to double his usage and stay just as efficient, which would be quite the accomplishment.
The bigger question isn’t as much about if he’s capable of it, but whether he’ll even get the chance to try. With an expanded role in the last eight games of the regular season, Sanders averaged 18 touches per game. In a 16-game season with his current role, he’d have around 288 by season’s end, which would have been 10th in the league this year. If he gets a slightly heavier usage and stays healthy, he could be in the 300s with power backs like Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott.
Sanders’ potential workload is uncharted territory for a Doug Pederson offense. Sanders’ 2019 touch total was the highest an Eagles player has had since DeMarco Murray in 2015. The last player to surpass the 300-touch milestone was LeSean McCoy in 2014.
All this being said, it’s still likely the Eagles add a veteran to spell Sanders or step up if he gets hurt. It could be a bruiser or a guy like McCoy, who may be more capable of replacing Sanders than complementing him.
Can you explain the Hurts pick? — From Luna (@LunaTuukka) on Twitter.
Great question, Luna. Since I haven’t fielded a mailbag or written in great depth about Hurts in a while, I figured this would be a good chance to offer some sober thoughts now that the dust has settled on the draft. The pick, like most draft selections, has logic behind it, it’s just a matter of how much you agree with that logic. The Eagles believe that backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on a roster and, by using a second-round pick on Hurts, they’ll save money by avoiding high-priced backups in free agency.
There’s a world where the pick pays off mightily. If Carson Wentz gets injured and Hurts steps in capably, the minority who supported the Hurts pick all along will come out of the woodworks. If Hurts develops into a legitimate starter, perhaps the Eagles could choose to build around him on a rookie contract instead of Wentz on his current deal.