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The Eagles need Miles Sanders’ explosiveness | Early Birds

Sanders carried the ball just six times for 15 yards and had two receptions on three targets for just 7 yards Monday night.

Miles Sanders runs with the football during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.
Miles Sanders runs with the football during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. These introductions seem to be getting repetitive. Another inconsistent offensive effort paved the way for the Eagles’ third consecutive loss, a 23-17 defeat Monday night against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.

Yes, the 3-7-1 Eagles remain very much alive in the watered-down NFC East, but the offensive struggles continue to be a source of concern, and it goes well beyond the quarterback.

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Eagles couldn’t survive Sanders’ substandard performance

The Eagles offense has little margin for error. The offensive line is leaky, especially with right tackle Lane Johnson out for the season. Quarterback Carson Wentz is inconsistent and inaccurate. The receivers have had trouble causing separation.

All those problems surfaced in Monday’s loss. Another was that running back Miles Sanders wasn’t a difference maker, and for this offense to succeed, he has to have a more prominent role.

Sanders carried the ball just six times for 15 yards. He had two receptions on three targets for just 7 yards.

Asked about Sanders’ relative inactivity and the low total of carries, coach Doug Pederson said, “I just think they got after us a little bit in the run game, got on some edges.”

The Seahawks entered the game last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 343.7 passing yards per game, so it was natural that the Eagles tried to attack Seattle’s secondary. But using Sanders more in the run game would have helped play-action passing situations.

“We knew probably going into this game that we were at least going to have to put the ball in the air to give ourselves a chance,” Pederson said. “That is a good rush defense and it’s a good front, and they did a nice job.”

That’s true, but Seattle didn’t have to worry about the run after a while. If Sanders isn’t going to run the ball, he has to be used more in passing situations. He has had some key drops, but getting Sanders isolated on a linebacker is a major mismatch.

Sanders returned, after being sidelined for two games with a knee injury, during the Eagles’ 27-17 loss to the New York Giants on Nov. 15.

Here are his totals the last three games.

Nov. 15: 27-17 L Giants — 15 carries, 85 yards, 0 TDs, 2 receptions, 5 targets, 10 yards, 0 TDs.

Nov. 22: 22-17 L at Cleveland — 16 carries, 66 yards, 0 TDs, 3 receptions, 5 targets, 15 yards, 0 TDs

Nov. 30: 23-17 L Seattle — 6 carries, 15 yards, 0 TDs, 2 receptions, 3 targets, 7 yards, 0 TDs.

Here were Sanders’ statistics in his first five games (he missed the opener with a hamstring injury):


5 G, 71 carries, 434 yards, 6.11 avg., 3 TDs


12 receptions, 25 targets, 91 yards, 0 TDs.

Using Sanders more, especially in the passing game, will open the field. Plus, like any running back, he needs carries to get in a rhythm, and giving him the ball six times isn’t enough. In fact, Eagles running backs carried the ball just nine times against Seattle.

Having Wentz become a better decision maker and more consistent is priority No. 1 with the offense, but involving Sanders more in the running and passing game has to be done if the Eagles look to get out of their offensive slump.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. At 3-7-1, the Eagles are in a place they have been before under the ownership of Jeffrey Lurie, Mike Sielski writes.

  2. Jeff McLane outlines the matchup between Eagles corner Darius Slay and DK Metcalf, which clearly was won by the Seahawks receiver.

  3. Wentz, who was sacked six times, played well enough to keep his starting job, writes Marcus Hayes.

  4. Paul Domowitch provides five takeaways from the Eagles loss.

  5. Domowitch gave his grades for the game, and not surprisingly, the Eagles run defense fared the best.

  6. In their Eagles notes, Les Bowen and EJ Smith wrote about additions for the Eagles during the game and Jalen Hurts’ relative inactivity.

  7. There weren’t many thumbs up for the Eagles in McLane’s Up-Down Drill.

  8. Smith and Damichael Cole provide the Eagles game as it happened, including many video highlights.

  9. Smith asks why receiver Travis Fulgham wasn’t used more against Seattle.

  10. When the Eagles scored a late touchdown and then a two-point conversion, the sportsbooks rejoiced, according to Ed Barkowitz. That’s because the Eagles covered the spread after being a 6.5-point underdog and most of the money was bet on Seattle.

  11. Twitter reaction to the Eagles wasn’t kind for the third straight week.

  12. Pederson talked about how mistakes kept stalling the Eagles in Monday’s loss.

  13. Inquirer photographers Monica Herndon and David Maialetti provided outstanding shots of the Eagles game.

From the mailbag

Question: What the heck happened to Travis Fulgham? — from Philly Philly, @coachchrislu, on Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the question, one we got from several readers. Fulgham had two targets and two receptions for 16 yards. He also drew a pass-interference penalty. One reason he was targeted less is that Alshon Jeffery played more. Jeffery had four targets and two receptions for 15 yards. As EJ Smith noted, both Fulgham and Jeffery were each on the field for 26 of the Eagles’ 52 passing plays.

A major reason Fulgham isn’t making as many catches is that the league is catching up to him. Just go back to the last three games. In each of the two previous games, he had one reception for 8 yards. He did have 12 targets combined in those two games, but unlike earlier in the year when he was relatively unknown, he has not been able to run freely and get nearly as much separation, and a big part of it is that teams are taking him much more seriously.