Eagles succeed in remaking backfield by drafting Miles Sanders

Ed Kracz

When Friday morning dawned, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman took a trip down the hall to the office of running backs coach Duce Staley.

The second round of the NFL Draft was still hours away, but the Eagles had their eye on one particular target. That was Penn State running back Miles Sanders.

Roseman told Staley: “Let’s get some good karma. Maybe Miles will fall because we’re going to try to be patient here.”

That patience paid off. The Eagles did not have to trade up to get Sanders because he was still there when the team went on the clock with the 53rd overall pick. The Birds weren’t on the clock for more than a minute or two before handing in their card to select Sanders.

The Eagles needed to upgrade their backfield, and they did.

It looks a whole lot better now than it did in January when their season ended in New Orleans after the Birds picked Penn State runner Miles Sanders with the first of their two second-round picks on Friday night.

Add him to Jordan Howard, who the team got in a trade last month, and the Eagles appear set for the 2019 season.

“Miles is a guy, he can play all three downs,” said Roseman. “Jordan has got better hands than maybe advertised. But you have these guys that can do different things and for Coach (Doug Pederson) he's looking for guys who have different skill sets so he can provide different looks to the defense, and it's a match-up league.

“That's what we are looking to provide our coaching staff, guys who can win one-on-one matchups and who can play in specific situations so there's not a play that he can't call because he doesn't have the right skill-set there.”

Even before OTAs begin in May, it is fair to assume that Sanders and Howard figure to get the bulk of the workload once the season begins.

The question is which other running backs will be on the roster for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Washington Redskins?

Darren Sproles could still be an option if he decides not to retire. The Eagles love him and have expressed their interest in having him return, but it doesn’t seem likely now that Howard and Sanders are on the roster.

If Sproles doesn’t return, there are two, maybe three, openings.

There will be competition for those spots between Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, and Boston Scott. There may even be another running back brought in when the team begins adding undrafted free agents once the draft ends on Saturday and on Sunday.

“Being from Pittsburgh, I don't really know too much about Philly,” said Sanders when he met with reporters on Saturday morning. “I know more about the Steelers and stuff like that. But I know the running back room, Corey Clement, Smallwood, Jordan Howard just came in here, and Josh Adams.

“I just can't wait to meet those guys. They seem cool. I'm really just ready to come in and just fit in for the team and get the trust from the team and get ready to work.”

The Eagles fell in love with Sanders during the pre-draft process, and Sanders fell in love with the Eagles, saying that “the coaches are all laid back and cool. Very family-oriented. I felt at home. It’s not too far from home, either. I fell in love with coach Staley.”

The Los Angeles Rams were poised to take Sanders with the 56th pick, then traded back when Sanders was off the board. The Rams later nabbed Memphis’ Darrell Henderson.

Sanders, who said a lot of teams showed him a lot of love, but passes on him, said that he thought Staley was more excited that he was now an Eagle than Sanders himself.

“Coach Duce is a smart dude,” said Sanders. “He loves football, he loves talking ball. He's very energetic and he loves the passion of football, and that's what I really like about him. He loves teaching and I love learning. I feel like I'm very coachable, too. So I think me and him will have a good relationship, and I think the sky's the limit for whatever happens.

**“**I think he was more excited than me when he called me last night, too. Seeing him today, just kind of told him I really wanted to be here. I liked the whole facility when I first came here for the top-30 visit, fell in love with the place. The coaching staff was very family oriented I feel like. It felt good.”

Sanders made the Eagles feel good. Karma was on their side.