Will Miles Sanders ever be able to stay healthy?


He sprained his ankle in the 2019 season finale against the Giants and wasn't quite right for the playoff game against the Seahawks and then had to leave the game early with a knee sprain.

He missed the 2020 opener with a hamstring injury, sprained his knee against the Ravens and missed two games, missed the season finale against Washington with a sore knee.

He missed two games this year with an ankle injury and left the Giants game on Sunday when he aggravated it.

That's how it's gone for Miles Sanders.

He's one of the best running backs in the league. When he plays. He just hasn't played that much.

"These last two seasons have been a little frustrating, but I'm trying not to dwell on it," Sanders said Thursday. "It's a long season and if I let that affect me I won't be playing to the best of my ability.

"So when stuff like this happens I just try to get back as soon as possible and get right back to it. I try not to let it affect me."
Since last year began, Sanders has missed all or much of 10 of 28 games. That means he's finished less than two-thirds of the Eagles' games. 

Sanders did practice on Thursday and said he hopes to play against the Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

But the story of Sanders' career has been a cycle of getting hurt, rehabbing, coming back, putting up big numbers, and then getting hurt again. The injuries are the one thing keeping Sanders from becoming an elite back.

Sanders is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this year and 5.0 in his career. He's on pace to become only the second Eagle in franchise history to average 5.2 yards per carry in consecutive years (minimum of 100 carries). Randall Cunningham did it in 1989 and 1990. Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy did it twice each but not back-to-back.

His 5.0 career average is 4th-highest among all NFL running backs since 2019, behind Jonathan Taylor (5.4), Nick Chubb (5.4) and Gus Edwards (5.2) and tied with Derrick Henry.  

The numbers are incredible.

He just has to be able to stay on the field.

Sanders hasn't played more than six games in a row without getting hurt since his rookie year in 2019.

He said he gets through the frustration by focusing on team goals and not feeling sorry for himself.

"Just knowing that we still got a chance," he said. "The season's not over. That's the only thing you need, that we still have a chance. Take care of what we gotta take care of each week, and we're going to end up where we want to end up."

Running back is a demanding, physical position, so it's not like Sanders is the only one getting banged up. But 15 running backs have started more games than he has since opening day last year.

Next year is the final season of Sanders' four-year rookie contract, so the Eagles are going to have to make some decisions with him pretty soon.

There's a reason running backs don't get paid like receivers, corners or linemen. They have a limited shelf life and teams don't want to pay for players who might not be available.

But Sanders is still only 24 and so gifted -- he reached 2,500 scrimmage yards in 29 games, faster than anybody else in Eagles history -- it's hard to imagine the Eagles not wanting him back.

There's no debate about Sanders' ability. He just needs to play. And keep playing.

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