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Duce Staley talks running back corps with season on the horizon

Miles Sanders is the headlining running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, but the team can also rely on a trio of other players coming into the 2020 NFL season.

Boston Scott, Corey Clement, and Elijah Holyfield round out the current running back corps for Doug Pederson’s offense, a group that brings a mixture of speed and physicality. Sanders has garnered plenty of attention and rightfully so after a strong rookie season last year, and running backs coach Duce Staley praised his mentality and versatility coming into his second NFL season Wednesday afternoon.

“His mental focus right now is unbelievable, just being able to understand the concepts and what we’re trying to do as an offense with him and other players and with his skill level being able to match him up on safeties and linebacker. It’s just [RB] Miles [Sanders] understanding the game a little bit better. Being able to know what to study and what to look for and now he’s going out there and he’s playing faster in year two, so that’s what I see on the field from Miles.

“I saw Miles just continuing to climb the mountain and continuing to get better in all three phases. When you are back there and you have a linebacker and you’re trying to take advantage of a linebacker and you’re out there and you’ve got [TE Zach] Ertz who is in the slot and [WR] Alshon [Jeffery] and you’ve got D-Jack [WR DeSean Jackson] and you have Miles, it’s a perfect match up for him to be able to go out there and take advantage of a linebacker who thinks he can cover.”

Sanders was snubbed in the NFC Rookie of the Year vote after totaling 1,327 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns for the Eagles, whom lifted the NFC East title in 2019. However, with veteran tailbacks Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles now gone, Scott and Clement will also see time in the backfield in hopes of helping Sanders propel the Eagles offense into one of the tops in the league.

Scott finished 2019 with just under 500 combined yards and five touchdowns while Clement dressed in four games, but didn’t record a single yard before suffering an injury. Clement, a Glassboro, N.J. native, has over 1,000 all-purpose yards in his three NFL seasons, which includes a touchdown in the 2018 Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots. Despite no veterans in the backfield, Staley is eager to work with this bunch and lean on Sanders in the running game.

“I think we have good backs. I think that Miles can do it all, and when you have a guy like Miles that can make people miss, that can lower his shoulder and also run you over, you want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible and you trust him. I think that’s what we are.

“We have [RB] Corey [Clement], we have [RB] Boston [Scott], we have a cast of younger guys, also, and we’ll see what they can do here shortly. But as much as I can give the ball to Miles and let him create and go out there and just kind of just trust him to do the right thing, I think do you it as much as possible.”

Holyfield, the son of boxing legend Evander Holyfield, comes into his second NFL season after being an undrafted signing by the Carolina Panthers in 2019. He ended up with the Eagles last season and will now look to work his way into the rotation after mainly being used on the practice squad.

The 5-feet-10, 217 lb. tailback showed great skill in college at the University of Georgia, totaling 1,018 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 alongside D’Andre Swift. After recording a 4.78 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, Holyfield’s stock dropped and eventually saw him failed to be drafted later that Spring. It hasn’t stopped Holyfield though from aiming to prove the doubters wrong and Staley credits him for the hard work so far in Philly.

“I tip my hat off to him because once he came in, he basically learned 80 to 85 percent of our offense in that short period of time. So the kid is a smart kid and he works hard, and you’re able to see that with some of the workouts that he was doing away from the building and also some of the workouts that he’s been doing now with [Director of Sports Performance] Ted [Rath], and you see it on the field. He’s a hundred miles per hour every play. He’s going to get in there. He’s a physical specimen.

“He’s going to get in there and knock you around with protection. Special teams, he’s going to run down and he’s going to knock you around a little bit. I like where he is. He’s hungry. He’s out to prove to everybody, all the doubters at least, he’s out to prove to them that he can play.”

All four tailbacks will look to provide a spark to the Eagles’ backfield in 2020, beginning with the season opener September 13 against Washington.

You can follow Larry Henry on Twitter (@lhenry019) and e-mail him at [email protected].

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