PHILADELPHIA – When Miles Sanders is healthy and ready to go, he is the Eagles’ starting running back.
Those were Nick Sirianni’s words on Wednesday morning prior to practice.
The head coach also said Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, and Kenny Gainwell were simply "filling in" during Sanders' absence.
That takes all the guesswork out of what Sanders’ role will be when he is ready to return, and it could be as soon as Sunday when the New Orleans Saints pay a visit to Lincoln Financial Field.
Sirianni believes that Sanders, who was activated into the 21-day practice window as he looks to return from Injured Reserve, has a chance to play against the Saints.
“If he looks healthy, definitely,” said the coach. “He’s one of our better players and will definitely go if he looks healthy. I just want to see how it looks this week then have more answers on Friday.”
His health will be closely monitored as the week goes on and if he’s ready, he will play.
the Eagles could elect to take it slowly with Sanders in his first gamer back, but what becomes of the fill-ins?
“Howie and I will talk through it, the trainers will talk through it,” Sirianni said. “We’re going to get all the information available to us to make the best decision for what’s best for Miles and what’s best for the team.
“I know how good of a player that Miles Sanders is and looking forward to getting him back in there and getting him carries, and just a really good job of Jordan and Boston and Kenny of filling in.”
Sanders had one of his best games of 2020 against the Saints in 2020, denting the NFL’s then-top ranked defense for 115 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns, including an 82-yard home run in the final two minutes of the first half to open a 17-0 lead. He also had four receptions for 21 yards.
The Eagles will have to sit one of their four running backs on Sunday if Sanders’ ankle injury, suffered against the Las Vegas Raiders, is deemed well enough to play. It is simply not logical to carry four RBs on the game-day roster.
Jordan Howard feels like a good bet to be active.
Sanders and Howard spent some time together on the active roster two years ago and, together, formed a solid Thunder-and-Lightning combination if only for a handful of games - until Howard suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the final six games that year.
Scott did not have a role until Sanders went out but has excelled in it the past three weeks. In three previous games, he has 40 runs for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Last week in Denver, he had two catches for 24 yards, nearly turning one screen pass into a long touchdown.
Gainwell was used most often in the early part of the season with Sanders. For the first several games, it was just Sanders and Gainwell, with Gainwell having the role as third-down back.
Then Gainwell took a bit of a backseat when Sanders went down and Howard and Scott emerged.
Scott seemed to fill Gainwell's role of third-down back and may be used in that role again. going forward.
Meanwhile, Sirianni talks all the time about using the hot hand in his running game.
Right now, it feels like those hot hands belong to Howard and Scott, which means the rookie Gainwell could be the odd man out on Sunday if Sanders returns.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.