PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles’ lead back is ready to go on Sunday in Detroit.
The bigger question is how many of the 17 regular-season games with Sanders be available during a contract year for the talented back.
Sanders has missed a total of nine games over the past two seasons with an assortment of injuries and a hamstring issue cost the Penn State product quite a bit of time over the summer, something that resulted in a lot of hand-wringing for a fan base that was ironically cautious about a precautionary mindset.
Asked if he could have played through the hamstring injury had it been a regular-season environment Sanders said, “Yeah, I believe so. … it’s just one of those injuries you don’t want to risk in camp.
“I attacked the rehab, so I’m back and ready to go.”
Ready to go against a bolstered Detroit front featuring No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson and emerging Tom Donahoe-favorite Alim McNeil on the interior.
“It’s my fourth year,” the 25-year-old Sanders said. “I’m very intact with everything going on, still, even though I was out physically [in camp]. I don’t think I lost a step, and I practiced these last two days, and last week. I think I haven’t lost a step, honestly, and I think Sunday will be very good.”
A talented team overall the Eagles do have some depth issues and one is t RB.
The team only kept three at the initial cut to 53 — Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, and Boston Scott — before trying to bolster the depth, first with practice squad signing Le’Mical Perine and then waiver-wire pickup Trey Sermon, who made Perine expendable.
“I like Trey. I watched him, I think he was at Ohio State last year? That’s Big Ten football, so I know all about him,” Sanders said. “Great running back. Very similar to what we all can do in the running back room. We can pretty much all do the same thing. He’s going to bring a lot of value to us, too.”
Nick Sirianni probably doesn’t want to test Sanders’ scouting acumen, though.
The plan seems to be Sanders as the lead back backed up by Boston Scott with Gainwell serving the role as the third-down and hurry-up option.
Hence the precaution with Sanders, who called the hamstring injury “delicate.”
“If you have a little tweak or if you feel something, you just gotta monitor it, focus on it and take care of it,” he explained.
With perhaps the game’s top offensive line and an imposing plus-one in the running game in the form of quarterback Jalen Hurts, Sanders was able to average an NFL-high 5.5 yards-per-carry on the field last season.
Despite that Sanders is often dismissed by critics and fans.
“I’m a team-first guy, so I’m worried about what my job is on each play. And whatever I gotta do to make the play successful, that’s what I’m going to do,” Sanders said.
The odds are against Sanders getting the big second deal he wants unless he finally breaks the 1,000-yard barrier and gets back in the end zone on multiple occasions after failing to score last season.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t (have more to accomplish),” he said. “There’s absolutely a lot more in the tank, but I can only control what I can control. That’s all I worry about – winning and controlling what I can control. So, whatever my job is on each play, that’s my job. And I execute every play just by doing that.”