Jalen Hurts injected some life into a stagnant Philadelphia Eagles attack, and that’s a fact. It was evident that Carson Wentz wasn’t going to turn his season around, and Philadelphia needed to make a change.
Wentz’s accuracy completely evaporated, he held onto the ball far too long, and was a mistake machine for weeks, leading the NFL with 15 interceptions and taking a mind-blowing 50 sacks in 12 games.
Hurts took over as the starter in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints, and completed 17-of-30 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown in an Eagles’ upset, adding 18 carries for 106 additional yards. Perhaps most importantly, he wasn’t sacked.
Now, Hurts earned the right to start for the Birds for the remainder of the season, and his rushing prowess and passing efficiency—although his 55.6 completion percentage vs. the Saints wasn’t good, he averaged 12.2 adjusted yards per attempt in his senior season at Oklahoma and threw 32 scores versus just eight interceptions—will make him a borderline QB1. Not too bad for a waiver wire pickup, huh?
But we are not here to talk about Hurts. We are here to discuss how, in the wake of Hurts’ ascent to a starting role, running back Miles Sanders is back as a plug-and-play option for the remainder of the season/playoffs.
It’s clear that Miles Sanders will be the biggest beneficiary of the designation of Hurts as the signal-caller. It was on display on Sunday and it will continue to be the case for the rest of the campaign.
In Week 14’s victory against the favorite Saints, Sanders had 14 carries and gained 115 yards (8.2 YPC) on the ground, with a couple of touchdowns. He also caught four passes and gained an additional 21 yards.
Sanders basically sleepwalked from Week 11 to Week 13, but that wasn’t his fault. And, as a result, many managers left him on their benches and missed his Week 14 explosion.
Over that timeframe (Weeks 11, 12, and 13) Sanders’ production hit rock-bottom, not coincidentally at the same time as Wentz struggled badly. He had 134 all-purpose yards and no touchdowns in those three games, which means that in Hurts’ first game as the quarterback, he produced virtually the same as in those three weeks prior to the change.
Most of the Week 14 yardage came in an 82-yard rush, but it was made possible, in part, thanks to the respect that the Saints’ defense had to Hurts’ dual-threat ability. And that’s what will open more lanes for Sanders in the remaining games of the calendar.
Sanders’ 18 touches were his most in four weeks, and that will likely remain a pattern with Hurts under center. If you aren’t impressed about what he did to the Saints, think about the fact that it was the first 100-yard rushing game against New Orleans in 55 games. Fifty-five.
The Saints did bottle Sanders up in the rest of his 13 carries (2.54 average per rush) but as evidenced by his five targets, he can also contribute in the air and is back to being a dual-threat ready to score.
Philadelphia’s offense will now be centered around Hurts and Sanders, which likely means a slight hit to the main pass-catchers, but represents incredible news for the second-year running back from Penn State. It also helps that the Eagles face the Arizona Cardinals (17th most PPR points to running backs) and the Dallas Cowboys (T-6th) the next two weeks. So, to answer the question you are probably asking: yes, you can start Sanders with confidence from here on out.