De­nied TD, RB San­ders sure to keep fo­cus on job

Rookie from Penn State won’t complain, just looks for chance to con­trib­ute

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Nick Fierro

PHILADEL­PHIA — He thought he had his first ca­reer touch­down in his first ca­reer NFL game. But an of­fi­ci­at­ing er­ror means Philadel­phia Ea­gles run­ning back Miles San­ders, a rookie out of Penn State, will have to wait un­til Sun­day night at the earliest to tackle that mile­stone.

No mat­ter.

San­ders isn’t sweat­ing a 21-yard TD burst that was re­duced to just a 7-yard gain by what turned out to be a bo­gus hold­ing call on wide re­ceiver J.J. Arcega-White­side in a 32-27 win over Washington. That’s just not his style.

“It was a bad call,” San­ders said, “but it is what it is. We got theW` ,’ and that’s all that mat­ters.”

Had the TD run counted, San­ders would have fin­ished with 39 yards on a game-high 11 car­ries in­stead of the 25 yards he was cred­ited with in his de­but.

Ei­ther way, coach Doug Ped­er­son was able to get just what he sought from his run­ning game when the of­fen­sive back­field is at full strength, like it was Sun­day. Dar­ren Spro­les car­ried nine times for 47 yards. Jor­dan Howard added 44 yards on just six car­ries. In the end, the Ea­gles had 123 rush­ing yards while aver­ag­ing 4.0 yards per at­tempt.

And this was with­out No. 4 back Corey Cle­ment even get­ting a touch.

As for the work­load, the split won’t al­ways be eq­ui­table. That will al­ways be dic­tated by op­po­nents and how games un­fold.

But they have the right skill sets and per­son­al­i­ties in place to han­dle what­ever du­ties are thrown at them. You won’t hear com­plaints about hav­ing to have so many touches to get into a rhythm or some such.

And you won’t hear any more doubts voiced about San­ders’ abil­ity to pick up

the blitz, based on what he was able to do on Sun­day. Be­sides, ac­cord­ing to San­ders, those doubts were un­founded in the first place.

“I don’t think [peo­ple who ques­tioned his pass block­ing] were watch­ing film,” San­ders said. “I did a lot of pass pro­tec­tion at Penn State. But the only thing that mat­ters is what hap­pens now, so I con­trol what I can con­trol, and that’s go­ing out there and know­ing what I’ve got to do on each play.”

Most plays, he will be re­quired to do noth­ing. De­spite end­ing with more car­ries than any­one else, San­ders played just 23% of the of­fen­sive snaps.

But he could play 90 or 100% if re­quired. “What­ever the ro­ta­tion is,” he said, “I’m go­ing to do what­ever they tell me to do and pro­duce.”

Need­less to say, the same goes for Spro­les, Cle­ment and Howard.

Just be­cause Spro­les had 16 touches (nine car­ries, three re­cep­tions, four punt re­turns) on Sun­day doesn’t mean he’s go­ing to get the same every week at age 36.

“We’re al­ways are go­ing to mon­i­tor that each week,” Ped­er­son said. “It’s kind of how our game plan fell with the run­ning backs a lit­tle bit. We still want to keep him in­volved as best we can, but at the same time we want to make sure that Miles and Jor­dan, be­cause they’re both younger backs … are good and can keep that ro­ta­tion solid, along with Corey. So we’ll keep an eye on it.”

Hav­ing the full com­ple­ment avail­able all sea­son could be the most en­joy­able prob­lem Ped­er­son, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike Groh and run­ning backs coach Duce Sta­ley en­counter in 2019.

But it will be com­pli­cated. These backs may not need an un­usual work­load to get a rhythm go­ing, but they have to get some game work every week.

Howard is not wor­ried, de­spite get­ting six car­ries in his first game with the Ea­gles af­ter be­ing dan­gled as trade bait for Los Angeles Charg­ers coun­ter­part Melvin Gor­don.

“I don’t feel like it takes a while [to get used to it],” he said. “You just have to be ready when your num­ber is called. We all know that, so we just pre­pare our­selves to be ready when our num­ber is called.”

Find­ing his rhythm is sim­ply about tak­ing ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“You can’t be think­ing bad about one play,” he said. “You’ve got to keep go­ing.”

Just as San­ders an­swered ques­tions about his pass pro­tec­tion with his per­for­mance, San­ders did the same with ques­tions about his pass­catch­ing abil­ity, snag­ging both balls thrown his way.

One of them was a low, im­pro­vised throw that he had to catch just inches off the ground.

If there were any other lin­ger­ing ques­tions about how much Spro­les has left in the tank or Howard hav­ing lost a step, they were an­swered pos­i­tively too.

Suf­fice to say the Ea­gles couldn’t be hap­pier with their run­ning back corps af­ter one game.

MICHAEL PEREZ/AP

The Ea­gles’ Miles San­ders tries to break a tackle in Sun­day’s win over the Washington Red­skins.

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