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Spadaro: Miles Sanders nears first 1,000-yard season

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

The Thursday late-afternoon locker room is jumping for the Eagles, who have just come off the field and are launching into the end-of-day meetings. Before then, there is a major table tennis challenge going on in the game room adjacent to the locker room – linebacker Kyron Johnson is chirping – players are getting into the strength and conditioning room, grabbing a massage if they desire, taking in a mid-day snack, and, of course, showering and just enjoying 45 minutes of down time before it all starts again.

Some conversations I had with players as the Eagles get ready for Sunday's game at the New York Giants, an NFC East game against a 7-4-1 team that promises to be physical, intense, and very dialed in on giving Philadelphia its best shot and keeping its playoff hopes alive.

RB Boston Scott: The Giant Killer

Here are the numbers, and they jump off the page: In six career games against the Giants, Boston Scott has 327 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging 4.61 yards per carry. He also has 16 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown. That's impact.

And that's an X-factor for this game.

"I've had an opportunity to have some chances out there against them so that's just what it is," Scott said. "I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary, but I'm not really thinking about it. I'm just focused on helping this team any way I can. I feel like I'm helping the team every time I'm on the field. If I get a chance on Sunday, I'm going to be confident that it will be a positive experience. The Giants have a good defense. Very tough. We're going to get their best. That's what we expect.

"They have some exotic looks that we have to be prepared for. They're physical. They're going to be ready to play and we have to be ready to step up and fight."

The most recent visit to MetLife Stadium to play the Giants resulted in a 13-7 loss and in the game the Eagles turned the ball over four times, including a late-game Scott fumble. He says he is "haunted" by that mistake and that the defeat marked a key moment in the rise of this football team.

"That put a sour taste in our mouths," he said. "But at the same time, we were like, 'We can't have this again. We need to be better.' And we've been better, but it's always a good reminder. We have struggled when we have shot ourselves in the foot. We need to play clean football."

LB T.J. Edwards: Keeping An Eye On QB Daniel Jones

One of the more athletic quarterbacks in the league, Daniel Jones has 522 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns this season, including 12 carries for 71 yards in Sunday's tie against Washington. Jones has a big arm and he's been good when given a pocket, but he also breaks defenses down with his legs.

The Eagles are very aware of that danger.

"I think he is underrated in terms of his QB-run game and within their run scheme," linebacker T.J. Edwards said, "but also you see him keep plays alive in the pocket with his legs and he will make some plays when he just takes off and runs when nothing is open down the field. He has speed. He's a lot better athlete than some people give him credit for, so you have to respect him.

"Some of what he does is designed, but you'll also see him drop back and if nothing is there, he's out (of the pocket) and he's gaining 20, 25 yards. We want to limit him. He's a really good player and you have to account for him as a thrower and as a runner."

RB Miles Sanders: A Brotherhood With Saquon Barkley

They both went to Penn State together, so Eagles running back Miles Sanders and Giants running back Saquon Barkley are extremely close. That Barkley has rebounded after two seasons battling injuries makes Sanders very happy, and the fact that Sanders is enjoying such a strong season makes it even more special when the two of them see each other on Sunday.

"We talked a little bit last week and I'm proud of him," said Sanders, who has 924 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns this season. "I told him, 'Just stay healthy and I will stay healthy and we will both be in the top 5 (of running backs in the NFL) this season. I'm looking to keep it rolling, I can tell you that.

"I'm sure we will have a spotlight together on Sunday, but my focus is on getting the W. We gotta beat the Giants."

Sanders said he "paid attention" when he received criticism from fans and media last year because he missed some time with injury. "That made me want even more to prove everybody wrong, so that's been my focus this season," he said.

Sunday, he has a chance with 76 rushing yards to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in the NFL, but that isn't what is foremost on his mind.

"I want to just keep doing what I'm doing and have great ball security and take what the offensive line is giving me," he said. "This isn't about me. It's about the Eagles and winning a key game in the division. That's all that matters."

PR/WR Britain Covey: Hoping The Return Rhythm Is Going

Finally, some opportunities, and on Sunday against Tennessee, Britain Covey had some chances and he made the most of them. Covey returned 6 punts for 105 yards with three returns of 20-plus yards in his breakthrough outing.

"I didn't have any doubts, because that's just not me. I knew it would come so I had to be patient," Covey said. "We haven't had a lot of return chances, but we did on Sunday and the guys did a great job giving me some room."

MetLife Stadium is generally a windy, weather-challenging stadium – there is rain in Sunday's forecast – so the next challenge awaits.

"Now that we've had a couple of returns, maybe that opens things up," Covey said. "At the same time, the most important thing is securing the football and advancing the ball upfield and giving our offense a chance. We have an incredible offense. The worst thing is turning the ball over and putting our defense in a tough spot.

"My mindset is going to be the same out there: I need to catch the ball and be secure, and if there is some room to return the ball, make the most of the chance. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to Sunday."

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