In his outstanding 2019 season, one worthy of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Miles Sanders led all first-year backs with 1,327 yards from scrimmage (an Eagles rookie record) and also set the franchise-rookie marks for all-purpose yards (1,641) and rushing yards (818).
Sanders was also prolific catching the ball out of the backfield with 50 receptions. Of the 13 NFL running backs who caught at least 50 passes in 2019, Sanders was second averaging a gaudy 10.2 yards per catch. He had a reception of 25-plus yards in five games, helping an offense that needed explosive plays.
Sanders' role expanded when Jordan Howard went down midseason with a shoulder injury. Over the final seven games, Sanders lined up for at least 50 snaps on offense in six contests. In that stretch, he was one of only six running backs – and the only rookie – to produce at least 650 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.
Believe it or not, Sanders had the largest workload of an Eagles running back in the Doug Pederson era with 229 offensive touches, including 179 rushing attempts which were also more than any other back in the past four seasons (LeGarrette Blount was the closest with 173 carries and 181 total touches).
What's in store for the 23-year-old in Year 2?
"I'm excited about Miles. I'm excited about him handling the full load. I don't see Miles as a guy that you have to monitor his touches," Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Duce Staley said on Friday. "I think you put him in, and you let him go."
Sanders has good size at 5-11, 211 pounds. He wasn't heavily used at Penn State with Saquon Barkley on the team for Sanders' first two years at Happy Valley. Sanders' workload in his final year at Penn State was almost similar to his NFL rookie season with 244 offensive touches (220 rushes, 24 receptions).
"I don't think you have to be careful with him because he's one of the guys that is hard to get a hit on. I think you've got to be careful with the guys that can't make people miss," Staley said.
"I think he can go out there and he can handle that part of it. He showed last year. He flashed last year. He worked hard. He got to know the offense – the passing game and the running game and running routes also out of the backfield. His hands got better. You saw a kid get better every week."
Staley crossed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the first time as a second-year player in 1998. He finished with 1,065 rushing yards and 432 receiving yards on 315 touches. Eagles Hall of Famer Brian Westbrook finished just shy of 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his second season of 2003, backing up Staley. Westbrook, Staley, and Correll Buckhalter formed a three-headed monster, so Westbrook was limited to just 154 touches. LeSean McCoy, who was chosen with the No. 53 overall pick like Sanders, not only surpassed 1,000 rushing yards, but amassed 1,672 yards from scrimmage in just 285 touches in 2010.
Without a traditional offseason, and it is said that players make the biggest jump from Year 1 to Year 2, Staley isn't concerned about any sophomore slump when it comes to Sanders.
"I think what Miles does well is preparation. We talk about that a lot. One of my sayings also is: Zero in on preparation, not competition," Staley said. "I tell them (the running backs) all the time to prepare yourself, make sure you're prepared for every scenario, make sure you're able to go out there and tell me what's going on on every play, not only your position.
Added Staley on Sanders, "He's a student of the game. He wants to get better and better and better. Sometimes you have to hold him back; then sometimes you just have to let him go."