Eagles' Miles Sanders focused on team goals as free agency approaches

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Sanders focused on team goals as free agency approaches originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Miles Sanders has yet to make a splash in the playoffs, but coming off a career year and his first Pro Bowl and with a new contract coming, this would be a pretty good time for it.

Sanders ran 14 times for 69 yards as a rookie in the Eagles’ 17-9 wild-card loss to the Seahawks – the Josh McCown game – and was just 7-for-16 last year in the wild-card loss to the Buccaneers. He was dealing with an ankle injury in 2019 and coming off surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand last year.

Sanders finally put everything together this year in his fourth NFL season, and if he shines Saturday against the NFL’s 27th-ranked run defense it will go a long way to helping the Eagles advance to the NFC Championship Game.

He was dealing with some knee soreness a couple weeks ago but said he's fine now, which would mean this is the first time he'll go into a postseason healthy.

“It’s late in the season, so everybody’s got some nicks and bruises,” Sanders said. “But just trying to do the best I can and keep getting reps and keep my legs moving so I don’t sit down and get tight.

“It’s just at the point of the season where we had this bye week last week and we haven’t been on the field for five days, so got to get my legs moving. But I’m back on track, feel good, ready to go.”

Sanders’ 5.0 career rushing average is 5th-highest among running backs since he entered the league in 2019, behind Nick Chubb (5.3), Raheem Mostert (5.2), Tony Pollard (5.1) and Jonathan Taylor (5.1).

But in the postseason, he’s at 4.0, which puts him 17th out of 27 running backs who’ve gotten at least 20 postseason carries since 2019.

The next step in Sanders’ career is putting up big numbers in the postseason and helping the Eagles win a home playoff game for the first time since the Super Bowl season.

Sanders is focused on team goals and not individual goals. But it’s no secret that when he produces, the Eagles win.

When Sanders rushes for 70 yards or more, the Eagles were 8-0 this year, they've won 13 straight games dating back to late in 2020 and they're are 17-5-1 overall.

When he doesn’t, they were 6-3 this year and are 14-22 overall.

Tampa was a real low point for the entire franchise but definitely for Sanders, whose 2.3 rushing average was 3rd-lowest of his career. With the Bucs building a lead as big as 31 points, Sanders was an afterthought much of the game. He had only three carries after halftime, none in the last 21 ½ minutes.

“That just ain’t us,” Sanders said of last year's playoff loss. “Bad taste in our mouth. Came and handled business for this regular season and back in the same spot, in the playoffs, trying to go all the way, honestly.”

What was the lesson that miserable day in Tampa?

“Everything’s a little bit faster,” he said. “Got to think a little bit quicker. Got to be a little bit sharper. You’re going to get everybody’s best. Everybody’s got it in their head it’s win or go home so the margin for error is really slim right now. …

"Have to be locked in and razor focused. When we do that, we’re hard to beat. … Not just me but the whole team. We didn’t win 14 games for no reason.”

Sanders is one of a number of prominent Eagles who are unsigned beyond this year, but at 25 he’s the second-youngest (a few months older than Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) and one of the most intriguing.

He’s already eighth in Eagles history in rushing, and his 3,708 yards are only 158 fewer than LeSean McCoy had in his first four seasons.

Just like Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, every game could be Sanders’ last in an Eagles uniform.

He’s just not focused on that.

“I’m at a space where I had a pretty good year (and) it’s going to come,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got an opportunity of a lifetime and that’s all I’m worrying about.

“A win would be a blessing. We’ve got a lot of goals, and the offseason stuff, that’s just going to come. All I’m focused on is today and trying to get ready for Saturday.”