Why it's best to forget the numbers from Miles Sanders' NFL debut


The numbers aren’t particularly gaudy. Miles Sanders ran 11 times for 25 yards, which comes out to 2.3 yards a pop.

In this case, it’s best to forget the numbers. 

There's no reason to be discouraged by Sanders’ performance in his NFL debut Sunday. 

For a few reasons.

• He did a terrific job picking up blitzes, and that’s been a big focus this summer and something he has to do or he won’t play.

“He did a really good job in his pass protection,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “He was targeted in his pass protection and stepped up and took on the linebacker a couple times and did a really good job of that (and) we think he'll continue to progress.”

• After gaining two yards on his first five carries, Sanders exploded up the middle for a 19-yard gain down to the 3-yard-line on the Eagles’ first third-quarter touchdown drive. He wasn’t able to punch it in against a stacked line on the next two snaps, but that 19-yard run really showed his speed, elusiveness and cut-back ability. It was the longest run by an Eagles running back in his first NFL game since Charlie Garner had a 28-yard TD on his fourth career carry against the 49ers in 1994.

“I thought Miles ran the ball really well,” Groh said. “He was able to slither through there a couple times. You saw a real burst and change of speed in the second level.”

• His ball security was excellent, and that’s been a huge concern. Sanders fumbled 10 times at Penn State, which is a lot considering he only had 308 career touches.

• In the fourth quarter, Sanders blasted 21 yards for an apparent touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty on JJ Arcega-Whiteside. If that play counted — and it appeared that the (borderline) hold didn’t really benefit Sanders — his average jumps from 2.3 to 3.8. Whether it counted or not, it was a sharp-looking run.

It’s tough to quantify it and the stats aren’t pretty, but the bottom line is it looked like Sanders belonged.

“It felt good,” Sanders said. “(The game was) fast. Real fast. A little different than preseason. But it was good to be out there and be in front of the whole Philly (crowd) and just balling. I felt really good out there.”

Sanders wound up with four negative runs, including one on the goal-line after his long run down to the 3.

He led all the running backs in snaps — 36 for Sanders, 23 for Darren Sproles, 17 for Jordan Howard. And he had the most carries and touches.

Sproles and Howard were both more productive: Sproles averaged 5.2 yards on nine carries and Howard 4.4 on six carries.

Howard needs to play more and Sproles needs to play less, but Sanders, the rookie second-round pick, will likely remain the centerpiece of the running game. 

Howard was in Sanders’ ear throughout the game encouraging him and keeping him up.

Asked what he told the 22-year-old running back, Howard said: 

“Just know that every play’s not going to be perfect. You can’t let one play defeat you. You’ve got to have a quick mindset and just forget it.”

The Eagles go to Atlanta Sunday to face a Falcons team that allowed 172 rushing yards in a loss to the Vikings in Minnesota Sunday.

Look for another generous helping of Sanders.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “So it’s only up from here.”

Sanders didn’t seem discouraged and he shouldn’t. He had a significant role in his first NFL game, and the Eagles won.

Everything looked good except the stats, and there’s every reason to believe that they're about to get much better.

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