Miles Sanders best role, possible salary if he remains with Eagles

Miles Sanders #26, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Miles Sanders #26, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Despite a 40-33 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week and an even more impressive 35-10 win over the Tennessee Titans seven days later, the Philadelphia Eagles have at times been questioned about ways offensive consistency can be maintained until Dallas Goedert is ready to be reinserted into the lineup. Some of those questions have returned in light of Quez Watkins’ injury, but once this season concludes, other decisions must be made like answering whether or not there is a role for Miles Sanders moving forward.

What broke Week 12’s Sunday Night Football game open for the Eagles, despite the tight score, wasn’t the passing game. It was the usage of Jalen Hurts as a scrambler and his three-headed monster at tailback: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott.

Has Miles Sanders earned an extension?

Is Miles Sanders a fit for this offense long-term? Does Howie Roseman have an alternate theory when it comes to building this team? No one knows the answer to the second question, but we can attempt to answer the first.

Miles Sanders has improved by every visible metric this season. Now, in a contract season, if the question is whether or not he has earned an extension, the answer to that is obvious. He has. What needs to be determined, if Howie Roseman and the Eagles brass agrees, is how long that contract should be and how much he should be earning. Let’s get into what works in his favor (and against him).

Miles Sanders is a top-15 tailback on a unit featuring a top-five O-line and the NFL’s best offensive line coach.

Previously, we graded the Philadelphia Eagles’ top three running backs at the six-week mark. Consider this a 12-week revision of those ratings. Viewing running backs through five categories (speed, agility, vision, hands, and physicality), here are our rankings.

Miles Sanders

Speed: A-

Agility: B+

Vision: C-

Hands: B-

Physicality: D+

Kenneth Gainwell

Speed: B+

Agility: B+

Vision: C+

Hands: C+

Physicality: C-

Boston Scott

Speed: B-

Agility: B-

Vision: B-

Hands: B+

Physicality: C+

When it’s all said and done, it’s entirely possible that Miles Sanders is the Eagles best running back. The trick is to run a system that enhances his strengths – his straight-line speed and explosive acceleration – and minimizes his weaknesses  – his vision and his physicality. The Philadelphia Eagles may be doing just that.

Here’s how the Philadelphia Eagles could maximize Miles Sanders’ skill set as a running back

Each NFL playbook has six base running plays – gut (inside zone), stretch (outside zone), trap (inside gap), power (outside gap), counter, and sweep. The plays have different names and 50 million iterations, but they form the backbone of every NFL run game. The question is which plays to run and under what circumstances in which to run them. We will take a look at both PFF grades and a chart of the tape to inform conclusions to those questions.

According to PFF, the Philadelphia Eagles are substantially better as a zone running team in terms of run blocking, and it’s not even close. Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, and Landon Dickerson are all substantially better at blocking in zone schemes with their double teams at the point of attack than they are at gap schemes, which require pulling and gaining leverage from angles.

So why run a gap-based offense then? The answer is simple. The NFL is moving towards a lot of bear fronts and tite fronts. That makes it harder to execute the inside zone game, but that also allows Miles Sanders to be fast and decisive as opposed to having to see and feel the holes change as the blocking matures throughout a snap.

Many teams, especially the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers are using 52 Tite fronts to make it more difficult for teams to double-team their defensive tackles. The Eagles successfully used the 52 Tite front against the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers in Week 12.

The defensive tackles, say Ndamukong Suh and Milton Williams, were in 4i techniques – on the inside shoulders of the tackles – and that alignment, as opposed to a more traditional 3 technique, made blocking Suh and Williams more difficult.

Miles Sanders created a couple of explosive runs – in gap schemes – but most of the explosion came from Quarterback Jalen Hurts

In terms of Miles Sanders’ production versus Green Bay, the offense averaged 9.3 yards per run and 3.67 yards per pass from 11 personnel (also called Zebra personnel in west coast playbooks). This one-back and one tight-end offense is the Philadelphia Eagles base formation and the standard for most NFL teams currently.

The Eagles’ offense averaged 21 yards per run and 17 yards per pass when Miles Sanders was in the game and the Eagles used 12 personnel (also called Tiger personnel in west coast playbooks). Hopefully, the Eagles will use more 12 personnel going forward until Dallas Goedert is fully healthy.

In terms of Miles Sanders’ production on gap runs, he earned run averages of 6.0, 14.6, three, and three yards per attempt on trap, power, counter, and sweep plays respectively. Comparatively, Boston Scott averaged four yards per run on Power and 19 yards per run on Counter, while Kenneth Gainwell averaged 8.67 yards per run on trap.

In short, Miles Sanders excels at runs that require simple vision and simple footwork. He registered two explosive runs versus the Packers and both of them came on some form of Power: 26 CG Power and 25 T Power. Miles Sanders is much worse on zone runs – one yard per carry on Split Zone and 4.6 yards per carry on inside zone runs.  12 Personnel helped, having the extra tight end as a blocker, but the sample size is rather tiny.

When you have a top-five quarterback, a top-five line, and your tailback back is top-15 at his position, it makes no sense to pay him top-five money

Whenever assessing Miles Sanders’ contract takes center stage, the question will always boil down to how much he deserves. If he is deemed a a top-15 player at his position, his contract will could be in the $12 million range, but the Average Annual Value (AAV) could land anywhere from $3 million to $6 million depending on the length of the contract.

In June, Spotrac deemed his market value to be in the three year, $12.7 million range. They currently, in December, calcutate his current value at two year and $14.4 million. That would rank him tenth among running backs.

If he agrees to a deal similar to Josh Jacobs ($11.9 million with an AAV of $6.69 million per Spotrac), the Eagles would be wise to sign him. Anything more than that, either in overall value or AAV, should be cause for Philadelphia to shake hands and part ways. We’ll have to wait and see what transpires.

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