Duce: McCoy Can Be ‘Best To Play the Game’

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.Seated at a table in the cafeteria at the Novacare Complex, Duce Staley was asked a straight-forward question: How good can LeSean McCoy be?

“He can be the best,” said the Eagles’ new running backs coach without hesitation. “He can be the best to play the game.”

Having spent the past two seasons as special-teams quality control coach, Staley is one of only two holdovers (Ted Williams is the other) from Andy Reid’s staff.

“In Duce, I’ve got a guy that’s not only won a Super Bowl, but been in Philadelphia,” Chip Kelly said. “Tough, hard‑nosed, intelligent. You’re around Duce for 20 seconds, and you know a guy that just absolutely loves football. So it was important to have that around.”

Staley worked with the running backs in his previous role, but now he’ll be the man in charge. He brings the “been there, done that” qualification to the table, having spent 10 years in the league, including seven with the Birds. Despite the fact that the Eagles have a first-year head coach and are coming off a 4-12 campaign, Staley’s expectations are high.

“I demand a lot from the running backs,” he said. “One question when I walk into the room that I ask them all the time: ‘Who wants to be second? Who wants to be a backup?’ And if a guy raises his hand, I don’t want him in my room.”

McCoy is coming off a rough 2012. He missed four games after suffering a concussion in the final two minutes against the Redskins and finished with 840 yards on 200 carries. McCoy got in the end zone just twice after scoring 17 rushing touchdowns in 2011. He added 54 catches for 373 yards and three scores as a receiver.

A Reid loyalist, at the end of last season, McCoy sounded both frustrated and motivated, calling his teammates out for making too many excuses. Meanwhile, just a couple weeks ago, he issued an apology after a public back-and-forth with the mother of his son on Twitter.

“I cautioned him like I cautioned everybody on this team of what goes on in social media,” Kelly said. “Sometimes people think the conversation is between two people, but it’s the whole wide world that’s watching.  So I believe our job as coaches is to educate our guys and help them out.  I had a conversation with LeSean. But I will leave that between myself and LeSean.”

McCoy won’t turn 25 until July and just signed a new contract last offseason. He’s almost without argument the Eagles’ best offensive player and a key piece going forward.

While much of the recent conversation has focused on the quarterback position, Kelly’s college offense focused on running the football. Last year, Oregon led the nation, averaging 5.97 yards per attempt. The Ducks ran for 48 touchdowns, tied for tops in the country. And only Army and Air Force averaged more rushing yards per game than Kelly’s squad (315.23).

“They should be licking their chops,” Staley said of the Eagles’ running backs.

As for McCoy, he can still improve in pass protection and as a receiver. Staley said he’ll benefit from continuing to learn how to watch film and translating what he sees on to the field.

“LeSean will tell you himself that he wants to know the game more,” Staley said. “And what I mean by that, strictly from an X and O part of things. Just learning from shades to three-techniques to wide-nines to alignment issues, what defenses bring to the table as far as what they’re trying to do to stop him.”

Kelly and the other Eagles’ assistants have talked about scheming around the team’s personnel. Regardless of the system, McCoy will play a major role.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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