In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.
As we head into Week 6 of this tumultuous NFL season, I wanted to take a moment to revisit one of the more polarizing offseason narratives: Doug Pederson, Miles Sanders, and the dreaded running back by committee (RBBC). In Pederson’s career as an offensive coordinator or head coach (2013-2020), there has only been a single instance where one running back topped 50% of the team’s total rushing attempts. That was back in 2013 when Jamaal Charles saw 58% of the team’s total rushing attempts.
In four games played this season, Sanders is averaging 58% of the Eagles’ total rushing attempts.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders made one huge play in Week 5, ending up with a solid fantasy performance. He ran the ball 11 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns, adding two catches on four targets for 19 more yards. Sanders scored on a 74-yard run in the first quarter. He ran the ball 10 other times for just six more yards total, but one of those times included a one-yard goal-line plunge into the end zone. His overall efficiency outside of the one huge play, and the Eagles’ continued struggles in general, are a slight concern for Sanders going forward, but he should still be a strong RB2 at worst in most weeks.
Coaching History vs. Unique Talent
The basis for the offseason discussion between those who projected Pederson to retain his traditional approach of using multiple running backs and those who projected Sanders to take on more of a workhorse role can be summed up in a single image.
To be sure, those on the side of the RBBC had over six years of information to base their narrative on. But the injury to Jordan Howard midway through last season opened the door for Sanders, who made the most of it. He posted efficient numbers and rocketed up offseason draft boards. However, Boston Scott had a significant down the stretch last season as well.
The opposing argument simply highlighted that Pederson had not had a talent like Sanders in the backfield since Charles. Sanders checked many boxes coming out of college, including production, athleticism, and draft capital. Even throughout the offseason, the Eagles never moved to bring in a veteran running back to compliment Sanders and even let Howard go. Following the coach-speak and actions of the team, the backfield appears to belong to Sanders.
Projected Future Volume
After missing Week 1, Sanders is averaging over 17 points/game and garnering workhorse-type volume to the tune of over 21 opportunities per game. His total opportunities from Weeks 2-5 slot him in as the RB6 behind bell cows Joe Mixon, Ezekiel Elliot, Josh Jacobs, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara.
Before this season, Curtis Patrick tabbed Sanders as a dynasty trade target. I even suggested you buy high on Sanders back in early June because his price at the time, while growing, had not reached the crescendo of a mid-to-late first-round pick as we drew closer to the season. I was, and still am, a believer in his talent and that what he showed last year was enough to warrant increased opportunity down the road. So far, it looks like that investment is paying off.