Eagles Wake-Up Call: Can McCoy Finish Strong?

mccoy_400102613The last time LeSean McCoy took the field, Redskins defenders were constantly greeting him as soon as he got his hands on the football.

By our count, he had to either break a tackle or avoid a defender behind the line of scrimmage on 12 of 20 carries.

“Just different schemes they had to kind of take me out the game,” McCoy said. “On some of those plays, they wanted Nick [Foles] to keep the ball so they were just slanting, and I was just seeing it and reacting to it. But we have something for that. It’s all about how you want to play us.”

On five occasions vs. Washington, McCoy was dropped for a loss. On the season, he’s been stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage 24 times. That’s third-most in the league, according to STATS, Inc.

With Foles at quarterback, the Eagles still use plenty of zone-read looks. On some of them, Foles is asked to read a defender and make a decision on whether to hand the ball off or keep it. On others, it’s a straight handoff with a backside defender unblocked. That means McCoy being oftentimes being asked to make something out of nothing.

“Teams on the back end of a lot of the zone reads and a lot of the times when there’s a guy unhatted backside, teams are gonna defend that a little bit differently as opposed to Mike [Vick] or Nick,” said center Jason Kelce. “So when Nick’s in there, obviously a little bit less of a running threat. That’s why you saw some of those down the stretch where he’d keep it. We got some good gains out of them, but you see those guys kind of collapse. So really what they’re trying to do front-side is just wall it up and wait for that backside player to kind of chase down the running back.”

Added McCoy: “When you say my numbers may be down with Nick, it’s probably because they’d rather take me out and deal with Nick running. I would do it if I was a defensive coordinator so it’s understandable. But the biggest thing is when you do that, there’s so many other things that we pull out of our arsenal to use and we have been using. And that’s why we’ve been winning. So maybe Nick might not be the most flashy running quarterback there is, but he’s making plays and he’s winning games.”

While much of the conversation offensively has centered around Foles, the run game is still the foundation of what the Eagles do offensively. Teams continue to move a safety in the box and play man coverage with a single high safety on the outside.

It’s up to Chip Kelly and the coaching staff to continue to find ways to get McCoy going. And they also may need to monitor his workload. Per Pro Football Focus, McCoy has played 609 snaps, third-most of any running back. And his 213 carries are second to only Adrian Peterson. McCoy is on pace for 310 carries. His current career-high in that category is 273 in 2011.

“I feel fine,” McCoy said. “I definitely think there’ll be a difference in getting that many carries. But I don’t feel it at all. And plus I’m not the type of back that takes really those big hits.

“I don’t really take that many beatings. You can’t really get a direct shot at me. Other guys might take two or three shots a tackle, or you add up a game, it might be 10, 15. They get 25 carries, maybe 15 of them touches they’re getting smashed or blown up. Where guys only get as many shots one-on-one with me to really hit me, so I think it’s different. Certain backs, you look at the way they get tackled or the way they get hit are a lot different from other backs. So I don’t see myself really with the high carries being 310 really being a big 310 load, if that makes sense.”

Sunday’s game against Arizona matches strength vs. strength. McCoy is the league’s leading rusher (1,009) and is averaging 4.7 YPC. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles are still the best rushing team in the NFL, while the Cardinals are fourth at defending the run. Arizona’s top priority will likely be to bottle up McCoy, but don’t be surprised if Kelly and his staff add a few wrinkles to get the ground game going.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Kelly responded to Bruce Arians’ comments, saying the Eagles run a “See-Coast Offense” and adding that he doesn’t care what others think.

T-Mac takes a look at how the Eagles might try to slow Larry Fitzgerald.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com with a good story on Eagles cornerback Roc Carmichael:

But he sees football not only as a game he plays on Sundays but also as a means to support the causes he believes in.

“Being in this position — and we work our whole life to get in this position — it hands you opportunities,” he said. “Which lane do you want to get in? Do you want to be the club guy, going out at night? Who do you want to be? Do you want to be the guy who helps people, who helps kids? For myself, I stuck to what I saw growing up, and that was helping.”

David Fleming of ESPN.com nominates Riley Cooper as one of his Turkeys of the Year:

If you need an explanation for this one, my search is over: You’re the Turkey of the Year.

COMING UP

We’ll have plenty to get you ready for Eagles-Cardinals as you pound through leftovers.

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