Eagles Wake-Up Call: Getting McCoy the Ball

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan offered up high praise when asked about LeSean McCoy this week.

“To me that’s the best back in football,” Ryan said, per ESPNDallas.com. “I really believe that. I think he’s tremendous. He’s so talented. He’s got vision everywhere. He’s so quick. And I think (offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinwheg) is the only guy probably that can stop him because that guy is phenomenal. So if they don’t give it to him, that’s a good thing. But he’s super talented.”

Ryan made it clear to reporters that he wasn’t taking a shot at Mornhinweg, but many Eagles fans probably agree with his initial sentiment.

The truth is, the Eagles know how good McCoy is and have tried to get him the ball in a variety of ways. Consider the following:

  • McCoy has played more snaps (487) than any other running back in football, per Pro Football Focus.
  • McCoy is averaging 18.2 carries per game, tied for sixth-most in the NFL.
  • McCoy has 30 catches on the season.

Now, I know the argument that will come next: But they haven’t used him at the right times. There’s some merit to that. The first half of the Cardinals game comes to mind.

And given the state of the Eagles’ offense, some will argue that McCoy should be running the ball 25 or 30 times per game. But the truth is, in today’s NFL, no running back carries the football that much. Arian Foster leads the league, and he’s averaging 24 carries per game. The only other running back who’s averaging more than 20 carries per game is Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.

There have been a few reasons why McCoy’s production is down a bit this year. Because of the offensive line’s struggles, he’s getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage way too much. Sometimes, McCoy’s able to shake free anyway. And other times, he’s not. McCoy’s been stuffed (tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage) 22 times this season, second-most in the NFL, per STATS, Inc.

Then there’s the receiving game. While he’s caught 30 balls, McCoy’s averaging just 4.9 yards per reception, an extremely low number. How low? Of the 29 running backs who have caught at least 15 balls this year, McCoy has the lowest yards-per-catch number. Again, that’s not all on him. McCoy’s never been an elite receiving back, but he’s certainly been more productive in previous years. The (lack of) blocking and Michael Vick have both been major factors in a screen game that’s given the Eagles very little.

And finally, there’s the red zone. After the Eagles went 0-for-5 inside the Saints’ 20 last week, many argued that McCoy should have received more touches. And that may have some validity, but it’s missing an important fact: The Eagles are terrible at running the ball in the red zone. McCoy has 18 red-zone carries for 16 yards (0.9 YPC). Inside the 10, it’s been even worse: 12 carries for 0 yards. In all, McCoy’s produced two touchdowns on 18 red-zone carries.

I know he had 17 rushing touchdowns last year, but we simply cannot ignore the fact that those came with Jason Peters and Jason Kelce blocking for him. He had 14 red-zone touchdowns on 50 attempts. Inside the 10, McCoy had 11 touchdowns on 31 attempts.

So, while the Eagles certainly could have made better use of McCoy in certain situations, running the ball more is not as simple a solution to solving this team’s offensive woes as it may seem.

WHAT YOU MISSED

We posted both cheat sheets yesterday. Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Cowboys’ defense. And 10 more things to know about how the Birds’ D matches up with Tony Romo and company.

I rounded up the latest coaching buzz on Jon Gruden, Chip Kelly and Bruce Arians.

And Tim wrote about the Eagles’ Iron Man, Brent Celek.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Earlier in the week, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie talked about the Eagles’ reputation around the league. On Friday, Mike Missanelli of 97.5 The Fanatic asked Brian Dawkins what he thought about the comments. Courtesy of Bleeding Green Nation:

“If you even hint to me that you talking like I’m soft,” Dawkins warned “I would go ahead and tell my wife Connie ‘Listen, I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but more than likely this week there’s going to be a fine or something. I’m just letting you know.’ Because that’s how pissed off I would be”

“So don’t even hint towards that when it comes to playing defense with me or any of the guys I played with. Because we gonna to take that to the football field and there’s going to be some questions answered.”

SI.com’s Don Banks has the Eagles 20th in his power rankings:

Remember when Donovan McNabb occasionally would make some of the worst throws you’ve ever seen, killing some worms with a one-hopper to his outlet receiver, or just drilling the 20-yard line between the 2 and 0? I see Michael Vick doing some of the same stuff this season, and I think it’s because he has been drilled so much he’s getting antsy from the pass rush. Understandable, I suppose, but he’s missing some throws he has to be able to make in his sleep.

COMING UP

It’s gameday. And it’s still Eagles-Cowboys, even though both teams are 3-5. We’ll keep you posted before, during and after the game. And don’t forget to join us for the live chat at 4:25.

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