Miles Sanders Playing Way into Rookie of Year Conversation

Eagles running back has improved each week into an all-around threat and leads all rookies in all-purpose yards
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Each week Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders has improved, and he is at the point now where he should be in the conversation for offensive rookie of the year.

The second-round draft pick from Penn State currently leads all rookies in all-purpose yards with 851, and the balance within those yards is nothing short of consistent, with 294 rushing, 274 receiving and 283 in kickoff returns. He has one touchdown on the ground and one in the air.

Sanders is just the 10th NFL player with at least 250 yards rushing and 250 yards receiving at the midpoint of the season since 1986. The others are: Ricky Watters, Marshall Faulk, Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James, Jahvid Best, Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, and Alvin Kamara.

The Eagles have had only one Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year winner and that was tight end Charle Young back in 1973.

“He’s learning and learning,” said fellow running back Jordan Howard. “It’s a tough league to adjust to, but I feel like he’s just getting better, keeps making big plays week in and week out.”

Sanders is the first running back to post at least 450 scrimmage yards and 250-plus return yards through seven games since Adrian Peterson in 2007.

In Sunday’s 31-13 win over the Buffalo Bills, Sanders had a 65-yard rushing touchdown, which tied for the seventh-longest run by an Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown went 65 in 2012.

“He’s been busting his ass,” said right guard Brandon Brooks following the win. “I know he wanted that Sports Center (highlight) run and the thing about him is the game is finally starting to slow down for him. I was telling (running backs/assistant head coach) Duce (Staley), the one thing I saw, it wasn’t even on that run, it was a kick return.

“If you saw it, he was real smooth in and out of his cuts making guys miss. It was like, ‘OK there it is it’s coming along.’ I’m happy for him. He’s doing a lot of good things out there.”

Sanders had 74 yards on the ground on just three carries and 44 on three catches, including a nifty 25-yard pickup off a jet screen pass when he cut all the way back across the field through traffic to set up the Eagles in field goal range on their second possession of the game.

“For him, it’s always been this lightening in a bottle,” said center Jason Kelce on Tuesday. “You’ve been waiting for it to kind of get set loose. You’ve seen the explosion, you’ve seen the big plays in the passing game, the screen game, so I think everybody felt like, if this guy can just start getting in a rhythm and start getting on track a little bit more, we were expecting stuff like that.”

Other rookies have received more acclaim through the first half of the season, but their numbers aren’t what Sanders’ are right now.

Here are some on offensive rookie of the year consideration:

  • Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. The first overall draft pick is completing 63.7 percent of his passes through eight games with 1,988 yards, seven touchdown and four interceptions.
  • Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew. The sixth-round draft pick has surprise and, while probably a longshot rookie of year winner, his numbers bear mentioning: 61.9 completion percentage, 1,976 yards, 13 touchdowns, and two interceptions in eight games.
  • Chiefs receiver Mecole Hardman. Taken three picks after the Eagles selected Sanders with the 53rd overall pick, Hardman is probably the frontrunner right now. He has 20 catches for 374 yards (18.7 yards per catch) with four touchdowns in eight games. He is also being used on punt and kickoff returns. He has 672 all-purpose yards, which trails Sanders’ total by 179 yards.
  • Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf. Taken 11 slots after Sanders, Metcalf has 23 catches for 402 yards (17.5 per catch) with four touchdowns through eight games.
  • Redskins receiver Terry McLaurin. Another longshot, but McLaurin has played above his third-round draft status (76 overall) with 28 receptions for 458 (16.4 per catch), and five touchdowns in seven games.
  • Ravens receiver Marquis Brown. There had been some talk that the Eagles might take the cousin of Antonio Brown, but went for Andre Dillard instead in the first round. Brown’s production has been solid (21 ctaches-326 yards, three touchdowns), but not quite rookie of year level - yet.