All-22: McCoy On Run-Game Changes

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA Today

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA Today

In the Eagles’ last game against the Giants, LeSean McCoy had by far his best performance of the season, rushing 22 times for 149 yards (6.8 YPC).

In the previous three games combined, he had totaled 120 yards on 53 attempts (2.3 YPC). But on Wednesday, the Eagles’ running back insisted that the Week 6 performance did not affect his confidence one way or another.

“It was obviously a good game and we ran the ball well,” McCoy said. “But I still feel the same way I did before this year or after this year. I feel like we have a good team here. I think we can run the ball well. We have the guys up front to do it and guys in the backfield to also do it. It was a great game, we gashed ‘em. But I always felt the same way before the game, from the 20-yard games to the 150 or 149. It doesn’t make a difference.”

What did make a difference were the wrinkles added by Chip Kelly and the coaching staff. Thirteen of McCoy’s 22 carries against the Giants came with Nick Foles under center. In the previous five games, only 11 of McCoy’s runs were with the QB under center.

“That really helped out,” McCoy said. “Just because I think under center, you can see it better. You can see the cuts better, the lanes better. If there is some pressure, you can adjust to it and kind of move the way you want to move, whereas in the ‘gun, you’re already going sideways, and if there is a little pressure, it knocks you back off your course. I think under center, you can get back to it. So if you get knocked off, you can get back. And you can see different things. And I like it. I like under center. I like ‘em both. I would pick under center more.”

Statistically, there hasn’t been a huge difference. Against the Giants, McCoy ran 13 times for 75 yards (5.8 YPC) with Foles under center. Out of shotgun, McCoy ran nine times for 74 yards (8.2 YPC).

On the season, McCoy has run 92 times for 322 yards (3.5 YPC) out of shotgun and 24 times for 100 yards (4.2 YPC) with the QB under center. It’s also worth noting that in McCoy’s record-breaking season, 80.6 percent of his runs were out of shotgun.

But until the Eagles get their starting offensive line back healthy, Kelly could continue to have Foles operate under center more.

“For myself, I think what makes me a good back is just vision,” McCoy said. “I think being under center, I’m about 7.5 yards deep. So I can see everything happening. And I’m the farthest guy from the game. I’m all the way in the back. So if a guy maybe has leverage on a block or a guy’s getting beat, I can see it. I can adjust to it. What makes me good, I can jump in and out of holes. So that’s why I like it better.”

Part of the reason for the under-center runs was that the Eagles added a new play. We went over the basics in last week’s post, but today, some of the players helped explain it better.

“Just something to get me to the open edge, get me some one-on-one opportunities,” McCoy said. “A lot of teams had been bringing a safety down to keep me up in the box. And that’s something that Coach [Kelly] came up with to get me some space to work, make some guys miss, get some extra yards. And that’s how it went.”

The basic idea was simple: get the defense flowing one way in anticipation of the inside zone and let McCoy hit his cutback immediately.

On one play, the wide receivers did a great job blocking, and McCoy ran through the alley for 18 yards.

“We’d had that for a couple weeks, but this was the first game we really utilized it,” said center David Molk. “And it’s really to take the pressure off the front side of our zone. Because if they’re really gonna weigh heavily over there and really stop our zone in that way, go the other way. It’s common sense.”

McCoy explained that the play won’t always create an alley. At times, it just sets him up to beat defensive backs one-on-one.

On this one, McCoy makes a defensive back miss and bounces it outside for 15 yards.

“Maybe two weeks ago we put it in,” he said. “I’ve always liked that play. Isolate the rest of the defense and me on a defender. And the lanes. You’re showing you’re going one way, which you’re used to seeing, and you come back the other way. So you kind of pick your holes in and out. Some may go outside, some may go inside. And then I guess they want their defender on a one-on-one with us, and we want the same thing.”

As for the offensive line’s blocking assignments, Molk said it’s pretty simple.

“You can try to make it complicated, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s just instead of hitting front side, it’s destined to hit back side.”

Added Lane Johnson: “It’s basically a zone blocking play. It just depends on what the defenders do because sometimes we mix it up and they slant. … It’s been in the toolbox, but sometimes you just bring stuff out to what the defense brings you.”

On another occasion, McCoy got a one-on-one, used a jump-cut to avoid a defender and bounced it outside. Zach Ertz, meanwhile, threw a defensive back to the ground.

And another one-one-one with a corner here. From the overhead angle, you can really see the defense flow one way and the open space to the other side of the field:

We’ll find out in the coming weeks how much the Eagles use the new wrinkle. The Arizona Cardinals have the fifth-best run defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.

There’s no doubt that the Eagles will try to get the inside zone going, and last year they used a lot a of split zone against Arizona. But if the Cardinals take those options away, the offense has one more alternative it can call on this time around.