The usage numbers for LeSean McCoy from the 2013 season are eye-popping.
The Eagles’ running back played 873 snaps, second-most among all ball-carriers behind only Chicago’s Matt Forte. McCoy’s 314 carries were tops in the NFL, as were his 366 touches.
Yet there were no real signs that the heavy workload slowed him down in the short-term. McCoy carried the Eagles down the stretch, piling up 519 yards and averaging 6.3 YPC in the team's final four regular season games. In fourth quarters, he led the NFL with 441 yards and averaged 6.0 YPC (fifth-best), according to STATS, Inc.
McCoy will only be 26 when the 2014 season kicks off. The Eagles have backup options in Chris Polk and Bryce Brown, along with Darren Sproles who joined the squad earlier this offseason.
"In the long season, you get worn down," McCoy said Saturday during a break at his football camp at Camden Catholic High School. "Just the reps, the hits, things like that. So I think Sproles will really help us out and help me out. I think myself, in the fourth quarter... I played pretty well in the fourth quarter right now. So just being fresh, maybe less carries, less hits, kind of getting it going a little bit, less mileage. I think it’s good for me."
Running backs coach Duce Staley was in charge of distributing snaps during games last season. Spelling McCoy in favor of Brown and Polk always seemed like a good idea from Monday to Saturday. But in the heat of action, with McCoy having established himself as one of the game's elite backs, taking him off the field proved difficult.
As we wrote last month, Sproles will likely be used more as a receiver than a running back in the Eagles' scheme. He only had 53 carries in 2012 and managed just one run of 20+ yards. Even if the Birds draft a running back (which is a possibility), the guess here is that McCoy is unlikely to see a significant decrease in carries.
The passing game, however, could be a different story. McCoy was prolific as a receiver in 2013 with 52 catches for 539 yards (10.4 yards per reception). To put that into perspective, the great Brian Westbrook never averaged more than 10.1 yards per reception in a single season during his career.
Of course, part of McCoy's success in the passing game had to do with scheme and matchups. Granted, the sample size is much smaller, but Brown and Polk combined to average 12.1 yards per reception (on 12 catches). Plus the Eagles now have Sproles (71 receptions last season) in the mix. If Chip Kelly wants to give McCoy more of a break, it will likely be in the passing game.
From a personnel standpoint, expect the Eagles to put themselves in position to lighten McCoy's load if necessary. But once the season begins, he's likely to have as big a role as he had in 2013.
WHAT YOU MISSED
McCoy became the first Eagles player to offer public support for DeSean Jackson.
T-Mac weighs in on Dion Jordan and the OLB spot.
Draft spotlight on Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief, a potential Eagles target.
Per one report, the Birds would consider trading up for Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.
Two small-school prospects to know, including an OLB/TE from Bloomsburg.
The Eagles are doing their homework on a USC offensive lineman.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz thinks West Virginia's Will Clarke could be a name to keep an eye on:
You can see that he is a good athlete. Clarke isn’t your typical 6-6, 271 guy. He’s not a freak athlete like Dion Jordan, but that’s okay. Jordan was the rare LB that could cover like a DB. Clarke has no coverage experience, but he is a good pass rusher. His sack total won’t blow you away, but part of that is due to WVa’s defense (scheme and lack of talent).
I think Clarke is an ascending player who could be a much better pro than college player. Put him on the edge and let him rush. Put some good players around him and I think he’ll be that much more effective.
Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com identifies six teams that could be partners for the Eagles if they're looking to trade down in the draft. One is the 49ers:
The 49ers traded up in the first round from 31 to 18 last year, and gave up a 3rd round pick to do so. If they wanted to trade up again this year with the Eagles, the compensation would be similar. The 49ers have 11 picks and are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. One of the things missing in the 49ers' offense is a WR who can stretch the field. That could be Brandin Cooks, who will likely not be on the board at 30, but could be there at 22.
We'll continue our look at WR draft prospects.