Next in our ongoing series, we will be taking a look at the running back position. The Eagles backfield features a potential breakout star and one of the most underrated players on the Philadelphia Eagles. All signs point to Miles Sanders and Boston Scott being key chess pieces for Doug Pederson’s offense in 2020. How does the position grade out? What are the top storylines?
Eagles Positional Breakdown Archives
For a team that has struggled at developing talent, Miles Sanders seems to be the exception to the rule for the Philadelphia Eagles. A second-round pick from Penn State, Miles Sanders began the 2019 season as part of a rotation including Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles. It was a slow start for Sanders who struggled with poor finishing, taking care of the football and low efficiency ratings. He had 106 yards and two fumbles after his first three games and the word “bust” was being lightly tossed around via social media.
The narrative changed in November 2019 when Jordan Howard went down with an injury and Sanders became one of the premiere running backs in the NFL
According to Zach Berman of The Athletic, Miles Sanders was one of six running backs with at least 650 yards and four touchdowns between Week 11 and Week 17. As the 2019 season progressed, Miles Sanders seemed to only get better and run stronger. During the last nine games of the season, Sanders averaged 5.1 yards per carry (7th best in the NFL) and grew leaps and bounds in terms of his vision and patience as a runner.
The 22-year-old finished the 2019 season with 179 carries for 818 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns on the ground. The Eagles have been hyper focused on assembling a roster built on postionless football and Miles Sanders exemplified that through the air by adding 50 catches for 509 yards (10.2 yards per catch) and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles seemed to be at their best in 2019 when committing to the run and Miles Sanders was a significant component to that.
The accolades for Miles Sanders rookie season were astounding
According to Philadelphia Sports Nation, Miles Sanders joined Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara as the only rookies to produce 1,300+ yards from scrimmage and 300+ return yards. An impressive feat for a rookie who’s confidence seems to be growing on a day to day basis. If you project his production into a full season, it is easy to see why many view Miles Sanders as one of the biggest breakout stars in 2020.
What will his role be in 2020?
Miles Sanders enters the regular season at the #1 running back for the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s not a question. The biggest question of Miles Sanders in 2020 simply revolves around: how many touches per game? The Eagles haven’t had this talented of a running back since LeSean McCoy. In his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles, McCoy played 15 games and finished with over 1,600 yards of total offense and 9 touchdowns. It is also important to note that McCoy finished that season with 91 targets through the air.
Could we see Miles Sanders replicate those numbers in 2020? If so, fantasy football owners are surely salivating right now at his through-the-roof potential and ceiling. As the roster currently stands, there are many questions surrounding the Eagles on offense. Press Taylor has now taken the reigns as passing game coordinator while Marty Mornhinweg returns as a senior assistant. It is clear that the Eagles want to open up the vertical game on offense while also adding more creativity to an often stale and predictable offense. That idea is even further cemented following the Jalen Hurts selection in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
From previous seasons under Doug Pederson, it has always been a running back by committee approach for the Philadelphia Eagles
A priority for the Eagles this offseason has been adding speed on the outside on offense and Miles Sanders seems to be the biggest benefactor of this shift in mindset for the Eagles in 2020. I don’t see any reason why his late-2019 pace should slow down in 2020. Determining Sanders’ potential is a fun concept with his ceiling ranging anywhere from superstar to Pro Bowl in 2020. As long as he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this guy’s potential. Miles Sanders is the real deal.
Boston Scott was one of the unsung heroes of the Eagles 2019 season. A member of the Eagles practice squad in October, this is a guy who made the most of his opportunity and at times carried the offense for the Eagles. His breakout season included a pair of phenomenal performances vs the New York Giants. Scott finished the last four games of the season with 4 touchdowns, 61 touches and 350 total yards. Philadelphians love a good underdog story and the top two breakouts star of 2019 was none other than Boston Scott and Greg Ward.
The offense in 2019 was dreadful at times. Enter Boston Scott, a 5’7, 203-pound spark plug that rejuvenated Doug Pederson’s offense. On the coaching end, Doug Pederson found himself abandoning the screen game for stretches. On Boston Scott’s end, this is a guy who didn’t drop a single target as a receiver in 2019. There were times last season when I found myself screaming at the TV for Doug Pederson to run more plays for Boston Scott. Scott finished the 2019 season with 61 carries for 245 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 24 catches for 204 yards through the air.
Looking into 2020 for Boston Scott
Boston Scott’s gutsy 2019 performance makes him a lock to be the primary backup for Miles Sanders in 2020. Howie Roseman made it clear that the Eagles want to get younger and faster across the board. Boston Scott clearly fits that mold. The Eagles want to become more dynamic on offense in 2020. Could we see Boston Scott utilized as the new Darren Sproles in 2020? I fully expect Doug Pederson to find creative ways to utilize Boston Scott all over the field. Whether it’s as a downfield receiver or in the slot, Boston Scott has secured his roster spot heading into next season.
I was ecstatic to hear that the Eagles decided to look away from adding a veteran running to the roster. While I agree that the Eagles could benefit from adding a veteran back who can get short yardage on 3rd and 4th downs, Boston Scott is a perfect fit for this offense and a guy who can be groomed for the next several years alongside Carson Wentz. Having a guy like Boston Scott who can fill in as a starter at any moment is crucial, especially during a shortened offseason featuring zero preseason games where injuries across the roster are a near certainty. I absolutely love Boston Scott as the #2 running back for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Oh, Corey Clement. It’s been a tough go for the 25-year-old running back since his breakout performance during the Eagles Super Bowl in 2017. Clement’s 4 receptions for 100 yards during the Eagles first Super Bowl victory now seems like an eternity ago. Clement played 4 games in 2019 and produced zero offensive stats. For the second straight season, Corey Clement fought the injury bug. In October 2019, Clement found himself on the IR with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 2. This was the injury that opened the door for Boston Scott, and the rest is history.
In April 2020, the Eagles brought back Corey Clement on a one-year, minimal-wage deal. When Clement is healthy, he’s exactly what the Eagles want out of the backfield. He’s versatile and he thrives on special teams. The problem is: when is going to be healthy? This is a guy who’s had minimal offensive touches during the previous two seasons. This is a monumental offseason for Corey Clement to show that he’s back and fully healthy for the regular season.
The Eagles brought in Michael Warren as an undrafted free agent this offseason. If there is anything you need to know about Michael Warren it is this: his nickname at the University of Cincinnati was “The Truck.” Warren looks to add a power running style to the Eagles offense. Warren has a compact build to his 5’9, 226-pound frame. Dane Brugler projected Warren as a 6th round pick in this year’s draft. Warren brings quick feet and solid power. This allows him to be solid between the tackles and the ability to run through contact.
These traits immediately make him an ideal complement to Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Surrounding Sanders and Scot with a solid inside runner who can make one cut and get up the field makes a ton of sense. However, what cements Michael Warren’s spot on the Eagles for me is his route running. Warren has soft hands and it’s his power as a runner and potential as a pass catcher that currently gives him the edge at running back.
In December 2019, the Eagles signed Holyfield to the 53-man roster but didn’t play a single snap during the regular season. Elijah Holyfield played for the Carolina Panthers during the 2019 preseason as an undrafted free agent, where he had 19 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Standing at 5’11 and 215 pounds, Elijah Holyfield certainly could open some eyes this offseason. Especially after the Eagles decision not to bring back Jordan Howard.
Elijah Holyfield certainly has a steep hill to climb this offseason. Miles Sanders looks to get more touches in 2020 while Boston Scott has that backup role all but locked up. Where does that leave Holyfield? Holyfield certainly showed to be a power runner at Georgia with the ability to move the chains. However, this is a guy who only had 7 receptions in 3 years for Georgia. The Eagles simply want more than yards on the ground from their running backs. Looking into 2020, I just don’t see it with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Adrian Killins Jr.
As a massive Temple football fan, Adrian Killins is a familiar face from UCF. Adrian Killins is a playmaker who impacts the offense both on the ground and through the air. He had over 3,000 yards of total offense and 25 touchdowns during his college career. The number the Eagles are looking at closest here has to be his 8 career receptions for touchdowns at UCF. This is a dynamic running back who clearly fits that Darren Sproles role that the Eagles clearly crave. Beyond that, Killins ran a 4.39 40-yard dash which Howie Roseman clearly loves.
The Philadelphia Eagles made it a focus to add speed to their offense and Adrian Killins fits the bill. Speed is the name of the game in today’s NFL. Finding and exposing matchups on offense is everything for offensive coordinators. The Eagles were clearly enamored with Killins home run ability. It will be interesting to see what running backs coach Duce Staley can do with this kid. Killins would have been a fun name to watch had the NFL proceeded with the preseason this year. Since there will be no longer be preseason games, Killins is another name that has a steep hill to climb to make the roster.
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Michael Warren vs Elijah Holyfield
I’m going with undrafted free agent Michael Warren because he’s a tough runner and a bruiser, which is something the Eagles clearly lack. He’s a truck out of the backfield and a solid complement to Sanders and Scott. Warren’s best strength is his ability to convert short yardage situations. Beyond, Warren brings more as a receiving threat over Elijah Holyfield. Because of that, I have to go with Michael Warren.
Position Grade: B+
Moving forward, I expect the Eagles to dress 4 running backs heading into the 2020 regular season (Sanders, Scott, Clement, Warren). I absolutely love the 1-2 punch of Miles Sanders and Boston Scott in the backfield. Anything Corey Clement or Michael Warren bring is simply a bonus. If Miles Sanders takes that next step as projected, then this could be one of the strongest positions on the roster. Right now, I give the Eagles running back position B+. However, if the stars align (Jason Peters plugs in immediately at RG and Andre Dillard fills right in at LT without a drop in production), I easily foresee this position graded as an A rather quickly.