Philadelphia Eagles

The Absurdity of Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni Ignoring Miles Sanders

The absurdity of Nick Sirianni ignoring Miles Sanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Nick Sirianni's plan for Miles Sanders appears to be throw the ball every snap for most of the game until you're down a couple touchdowns and then, once you're desperate and nothing else is working, give him a couple carries just for the heck of it and then realize ... "Oh, wait, he's pretty good, isn't he."

Heck of a philosophy.

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It keeps happening, and it's inexcusable.

By any measure, Sanders is one of the NFL's best running backs.

Look at the numbers.

Since he entered the league in 2019, Sanders has averaged 5.6 yards per touch, 3rd-highest in the league, behind only Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey.

He's averaging 4.7 yards per carry this year, which is 9th-best in the league, and his career average of 4.9 is 5th-highest among active running backs with at least 400 carries, behind Nick Chubb, Gus Edwards, Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry.

Pretty good company.

And he can't get the freaking ball.

Sirianni's practice of systematically freezing Sanders out of the game plan is stripping a beleaguered offense of one of the only experienced, consistent, proven weapons it has. 

Instead of building around Sanders, he's doing everything he can to ignore him, electing instead to let a young quarterback run or throw on a staggering 77.3 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps.

Sanders has become an afterthought.

The guy who reached 2,500 scrimmage yards faster than anybody in franchise history has become a gadget for Sirianni to turn to when all else fails.

He has just 24 carries before halftime all year. Some 34 running backs have more. And Sanders has played one more game.

Over the past four weeks, he has just 11 first-half carries. That's 2¾ per game. Would you believe 45 running backs have more?

It seems like if Sanders doesn't get eight yards on his first carry, he goes back into mothballs so Sirianni can call 40 straight pass plays that go nowhere.

On Thursday night, by the time he got his second carry, it was 21-7. By the time he got his third, it was 28-7.

Same thing in Carolina five days earlier. By the time he got his fourth carry, the Eagles were down 12.

Both games, a funny thing happened.

The passing game was sputtering late and Sirianni grew so desperate for something positive to happen that he got Sanders involved. 

How did the Eagles come back against the Panthers? Sanders was 6-for-30 in the last 8½ minutes -- running into a stacked box -- after getting just five carries in the first 51½ minutes of the game. Should he have stayed in bounds? Of course. But anybody who was paying attention could see the impact he made on that game.

How did the Eagles make things close Thursday night against the Bucs? Sanders had four carries going into the fourth quarter. He was a non-factor. But even the No. 1 defense in the NFL -- and the 3rd-best of all-time through five games -- couldn't slow him down. His first three carries of the fourth quarter went for 11, 6, 23 and 14 yards against a run defense allowing 2.9 yards per carry. But it was too late.

Imagine if Sirianni started using Sanders earlier? The Eagles could have put the Panthers away faster, and maybe the result would have been different against the Bucs.

Six games into the 2021 season, Sanders is 9th in the NFL in rushing average and 22nd in carries. Over the last four weeks, he's averaging 4.9 yards per rush, but he's 32nd in carries.

The offense has lacked consistency, balance and production for most of the season. Hurts has been up and down under the load of carrying virtually the entire offense on his back. The offensive line has been tasked with pass blocking on more than three-quarters of the Eagles' snaps.

None of this makes sense and none of this helps win games.

If there's one thing this offense desperately needs right now it's a running back who can move the chains, keep pressure off a young quarterback, provide balance and playmaking and help keep a defense that's playing 34 minutes a game off the field.

The Eagles have exactly that. And there's only one person on the planet who doesn't realize it.

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