Miles Sanders opening eyes at Eagles camp: 'Everything that I worked hard for is paying off'

Miles Sanders, the Eagles' 2019 second-round pick at No. 53 overall, has had an impressive training camp thus far. John Jones/Icon Sportswire

PHILADELPHIA -- Miles Sanders was on stage in the middle of singing Tupac's "Keep Ya Head Up" when he was forced to duck.

Philadelphia Eagles rookies have a number of training camp duties from carrying veterans' pads off the field to fetching them Rita's Water Ice to providing nightly entertainment by serenading the team in the auditorium. Sanders forgot the words and paused for a beat, prompting cornerback Jalen Mills and a couple other critics to toss empty water bottles at him while boos rained down.

"I went up there twice," Sanders said. "Did bad the first time, did a lot better the second time, so I don't think I need to go up there again."

Fortunately, things have gone much more smoothly on the field. So smoothly, in fact, that the question of whether he'll be able to carve out a role early after missing spring workouts with a hamstring injury has been replaced with: How can you not have this guy as part of your offensive attack?

"That boy is a beast, man. You're going to see. Oooh, I like him," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "I don't want to give out too much. I'm going to let him be a surprise to some."

What his teammates are seeing is a running back with light feet and sudden burst who can change direction in a snap while keeping his shoulders square. It's a skill set that enticed the Eagles to take him with the No. 53 overall pick this past April -- the first time they selected a back that high since 2009 when they grabbed LeSean McCoy with the very same No. 53 pick. So far, those skills are translating to the next level.

"He's getting more confident coming off the hamstring there in the spring. Again, he's just learning how to run our plays. But there have been some plays where you are [staring] at it from behind, you say, 'Wow, that was a really good cut right there,'" offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "Unique skill level in the hole and in a short area and being able to make quick cuts and then get vertical, and he's made some plays in the passing game down the field."

Sanders had a scare on Thursday when he stayed on the ground with a foot injury after a run and was taken to the trainers' tent. But he emerged from the tent with a smile and no noticeable limp.

The team has been monitoring his reps given he is coming off a hamstring strain that forced him to miss everything but rookie minicamp this spring, although coach Doug Pederson said he was impressed with how in shape Sanders was coming into training camp.

Sanders has dropped weight since leaving Penn State for the pros -- he was listed at 215 pounds in 2018, and is down to around 208 -- a change that he said has elevated his game.

"Everything that I worked hard for is paying off. Literally everything. I feel faster, my weight is where I want it to be, I feel light, I feel quick, everything. I'm moving faster, thinking faster, just catching up to speed with the guys. Feel good," he said.

Sanders is "starstruck" sharing a field with Darren Sproles and said he has been "staying right in his pocket, just getting advice from him." He wants to improve at catching the ball out of the backfield, and Sproles is helping him. Sanders also has work to do in pass protection and ball security. His development in those areas will help dictate just how much of a workload he gets his rookie season.

But at this pace, he's going to have to be accounted for in a backfield that also features Sproles, Jordan Howard and Corey Clement.

"I'm not sure," Sanders said when asked if there will be a traditional starter at running back. "I'm willing to do whatever I've got to do to help this team win and get to the Super Bowl."