Eagles' Miles Sanders ready for expanded role in second season

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles running back Miles Sanders has been preparing for a workhorse role during the 2020 NFL season, and by the sounds of it, that's exactly what the team plans to give him.

"I'm excited about Miles. I'm excited about him handling the full load. I don't see Miles as a guy that you have to monitor his touches," assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley said. "You put him in and you let him go."

Sanders, 23, established himself as the Eagles' lead back during an impressive rookie season in which he set team records for most scrimmage yards (1,327) and rushing yards (818) by a rookie while finishing eighth in the NFL in all-purpose yards (1,641). He did all of that despite starting the season as the No. 2 behind Jordan Howard and playing 53% of the offensive snaps.

Howard is now with the Miami Dolphins, leaving Sanders as not only the clear-cut No. 1, but one of the more experienced players in a very green group that includes fellow second-year players Boston Scott and Elijah Holyfield, two rookies (Adrian Killins Jr. and Mike Warren), and 25-year-old Corey Clement.

The Eagles showed interest in Carlos Hyde (Seattle), LeSean McCoy (Tampa) and Devonta Freeman (free agent) this offseason, but have been reluctant to pay much more than the veteran minimum to date. They could still add a vet at some point, and there will still be a rotation of some kind, but it's going to be largely Sanders' show.

"I trust [GM] Howie [Roseman] and their process of bringing people in for what's best for the team," Sanders said. "They announced I'm the guy this year, but having any type of veteran running back would be a blessing, too, just for me to pick their brain and to help me out. I'm always up to learn."

There's not a ton to pick apart from Sanders' rookie season. He proved to be effective as a pass-catcher with 50 receptions (something he barely did at Penn State), was elusive on the ground (4.6 yards per carry) and provided the Eagles with a much-needed big-play threat, posting 13 plays of 20-plus yards -- tied for third-most among backs along with Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey and Los Angeles Chargers' Austin Ekeler.

One area for improvement he identified was breaking tackles. He averaged 1.50 yards after first contact, which ranked 38th among running backs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Sanders left 200 to 300 yards on the field last season, in his view, costing him a 1,000-yard rushing season. He has spent the months since working on his strength.

That should come in handy as he takes on a bigger workload in 2020.

"I just expect my role to be the guy that just helps the team win as much as possible," Sanders said. "They've been saying ... that I'm going to have a bigger role. That's just a blessing to me, honestly. I'm just excited to do whatever I can to help this team win, whether it's on the ground or in the air."