Duce Staley wants to unleash Miles Sanders on the NFL


No limits. No restrictions. 

Duce Staley wants to unleash Miles Sanders on the NFL with no concern about his workload.

How many touches is too many touches? Staley isn’t even thinking that way.

“I’m excited about Miles,” Staley said Friday. “I’m excited about him handling the full load. I don’t see Miles as a guy you have to monitor his touches, 15 here, maybe 15 rushes, five passes, no, I don’t see him that way. I think you put him in and you let him go.”

How many touches Sanders will get is one of the more interesting questions going into what we all hope is a 2020 NFL season.

More and more each year, teams are limiting their running backs’ workloads and using more of a rotation as it becomes apparent that running backs have such a limited shelf life. 

In Doug Pederson’s four years as head coach of the Eagles, no running back has averaged more than 12.9 touches per game. But that has as much to do with the backs he’s had than a real philosophy.

Even as a part-time player the first half of last year, Sanders’ 229 touches were by far the most by a running back under Pederson. LeGarrette Blount (181 in 2017) and Ryan Mathews (168 in 2016) are the only other ones who’ve been over 150.

After Jordan Howard got hurt in the middle of last season, Staley and Pederson didn’t hesitate to give Sanders a generous dollop of touches, and he essentially became the first true lead back Pederson has ever had.

Over the last seven games of the season, Sanders averaged 18.7 touches per game, 9th-most in the league, and he averaged just under 100 scrimmage yards during that span.

He even had a couple 25-touch games, something no Eagles rookie had done since Steve Van Buren, and seemed to handle it well.

When you start projecting that sort of production over a full season … you see why the Eagles are so excited about Sanders.

What are we looking at here? Something like 15 or 16 carries and four or five catches gets Sanders to 20 touches per game.

So don’t be surprised if Sanders gets into the 320-touch range if there is a full NFL season. Only five running backs in franchise history have had 320 touches - Wilbert Montgomery twice, Ricky Watters three straight years, Duce himself three times, Brian Westbrook once and LeSean McCoy three times.

That’s the company Sanders needs to be in.

There’s a belief that bigger, tougher running backs can handle a bigger workload, but Staley said the opposite is actually true.

“I don’t think you have to be careful with (Sanders) because he’s one of the guys that it’s hard to get a hit on,” said Staley, the Eagles' running backs coach since 2013. 

“I think you’ve got to be careful with the guys that can’t make people miss. So if you put a big workload on those types of guys, this is a violent league and injuries can happen at any time, but if you’ve got a guy who can make people miss and is kind of special, like Miles, the injury percentage goes down. So I think he can go out there and he can handle that part of it.”

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