LeSean McCoy: Eagles Savior

The Birds' running back has balanced the team's offense for the first time in a decade

“For who? For what?” Those two questions—posed by Ricky Watters after his first game as an Eagle—have epitomized the running back situation in Philadelphia for decades.

While Emmit Smith, Barry Sanders, Ahman Green, Steven Jackson and the like have provided consistent production out of the backfield for NFC teams, the Eagles organization abandoned the run and changed running backs like the Raiders have changed coaches. Some were great—see Westbrook, Brian, circa 2006. Some weren’t so great—see James, Joseph, circa 1991.

Sunday night, on national television, Andy Reid and his Eagles demonstrated that running the football is no longer an aspect of the game they’re going to neglect. Two days ago running back LeSean McCoy rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns as the Birds stuck it to the Boys. McCoy got 30 carries in the contest as he notched his fourth 120+ yard game of a season that isn’t even halfway over yet.

Shady is in the midst of a remarkable season by any standards, but it’s especially significant because of his team and his head coach. He’s rushed for 754 yards and eight scores through seven games. The last Eagles running back to rush for more than 10 touchdowns in a season was Watters back in ’96. What’s more is the number of touches McCoy is getting. He’s gotten 58 carries in the past two games—a number unmatched while Andy Reid has been at the team’s helm (Duce Staley equaled the mark in weeks 13 and 14 of the 1998 season).

His seven red zone rushing touchdowns are equaled only once by Westbrook and eclipsed only twice by Watters (12 in 1995 and 11 in 1996). And Shady still has nine games to play.

McCoy is on pace to amass more than 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns. That would best Wilbert Montgomery’s franchise-record 1,512 yards in 1979. He’s averaging more than 19 carries a contest and hasn’t fumbled the ball once. The guy runs North and South like Duce Staley, cuts back like Westbrook, and isn’t down ‘til he’s down like Watters. He’s helped bring the run back to a city that hasn’t had a rushing champion since Steve Van Buren in 1949.

Brian Westbrook was more than exciting and replacing boos with “Duuuuuuce” was enjoyable for a few years. But, after seasons of a nearly non-existent running game; after season-ending injuries to Westbrook, Staley and Buckhalter; after years of not being able to run the ball in the red zone, it’s more than refreshing to have Reid and company handing the ball to an elite running back.

LeSean McCoy may not win the 2011 rushing title—he’s currently second in the NFL in yards. He may not run for 20 touchdowns or light the world on fire from the backfield. Hell, at 3-4, there’s a chance that the Birds may not even be relevant come weeks 16-17. But, the one thing he will do, is continue to provide balance to an offense that has been aerially lopsided for over a decade.

For who? For what?

LeSean McCoy hasn’t asked those questions and Philadelphia is thrilled by the notion that it’s because he already knows the answer.