Starstruck Miles Sanders is Optimistic about Eagles' Chances

The Eagles RB1 is excited about the upcoming 2021 season
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PHILADELPHIA - Joe Flacco has still got some cachet.

The Super Bowl-winning quarterback and South Jersey native is set to back up Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia this season, a development that didn't exactly capture the imagination of the fan base.

Many of Flacco's peers, however, still remember what the veteran QB was in Baltimore as an almost constant presence in the postseason, topping out as a Super Bowl XLVII champion when he and the Ravens outlasted the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans.

Miles Sanders was in Woodland Hills High School in Western Pennsylvania at that time, a dedicated Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and a young man Flacco made cry a time or two in what was at the time and might still be the NFL's best rivalry.

Talking with Kenny Gainwell this week, Sanders let the rookie running back in on a little secret. The Eagles' top RB was "starstruck" seeing the now 36-year-old Flacco.

"(He) doesn't know that," Sanders laughed, "but I’m a little starstruck looking at Joe Flacco."

The irony is that Gainwell, Fletcher Cox's cousin, was also starstruck with Sanders, now in his third season with the Eagles and a player some believe could join the top backs in the sport in 2021.

"I’m like, ‘That’s crazy. Thank you. I appreciate that,’" said Sanders. "Stuff like that keeps me humble."

Flacco - he of the 40,000-plus passing yards and 10 postseasons wins - humbled many fans over the years, something Sanders acknowledged.

"He even gave me headaches, made me cry a couple of times," the Eagles' RB1 joked. "... But I’m a fan. That’s a Super Bowl quarterback, and I look forward to stuff like that."

Sanders wants to build his own Super Bowl legacy and understands that he took a bit of a step backward last season, particularly when it comes to pass protection and catching the football.

“I see my role doing whatever I can to get a W each game,” Sanders said. “To make the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Win the division first.”

Like most players on the Eagles much has changed for Sanders from 2020, starting with the coaching staff and moving to new faces in the RB room like Gainwell and Kerryon Johnson.

Head coach Nick Sirianni, known for connecting with his players, won over Sanders quickly in a unique fashion.

“Coach Sirianni, the thing I love about him is he’s very family-oriented,” said Sanders. “He’s trying to get to know the players before all the football stuff. He came up to me (Wednesday) and surprised me with my high school slogan. I didn’t even know anybody knew that. That was pretty cool to me.”

For the record, that slogan is Woodie High, a nickname for his high school.

Sanders admits to missing his former mentor, Duce Staley, now the assistant head coach/RBs in Detroit, but has quickly bonded with Jemal Singleton, who now has that same role in Philadelphia.

“It’s definitely difficult. I’d been lying if I said it wasn’t,” Sanders said of moving on from Staley. “But it’s a business, and that’s exactly what he would say. Honestly, he didn’t want to leave, either. I’m pretty sure he would tell you he didn’t want to leave either but you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.

“... I love Coach Singleton,” he continued. “His energy is through the roof."

As for personal goals, it starts with health for Sanders.

“I’m focused on playing all 17 games," he noted. "I don’t like missing games, [missing] four games [in 2020] was way too many especially for them being two or three divisional games.

"That don’t sit right with me.”

Although most players aren't thrilled with the move from 16 to 17 games, Sanders is a little different.

"More games, more yards," he smiled.

The optimistic Sanders sees big things ahead.

"I love the whole offense the way it’s being taught to us," he said. "Everybody is learning the offense. Coaches, too. And that’s what’s so cool about this situation right now – everybody is literally learning the offense together."

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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 and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.