Nov 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) is tackled by Carolina Panthers defensive back Colin Jones (42) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
There has been a lot of criticism and many questions about Philadelphia Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy through the first nine games of the 2014 season, driven by a perception he’s not measuring up to his outstanding 2013 season.
Folks have a very selective memory, apparently. While it’s true McCoy is not on pace to match the 1,607 yards he ran for last season, it’s also true that he’s not very far off. And if you want to talk about issues with Shady, you’re looking in the wrong stat category.
Here’s a key number we tend to forget: 7. While McCoy ended up with an average of 100 yards per game, that’s a number he hit or surpassed just seven times all season. Shady ran for 184 yards in the opener at Washington, 158 in the loss to Kansas City, 116 against Tampa Bay, 155 at Green Bay, 133 against Chicago, 131 at Dallas and, of course, his signature performance, 217 yards against Detroit.
In his other nine games, McCoy’s totals look like this: 53, 73, 46, 55, 48, 44, 77, 79 and 38.
Compare all that data this season’s rushing lines: 74, 79, 22, 17, 81, 149, 83, 117 and 19. Now keep two factors in mind, as well. First, the offensive line has been a mess with injuries. Second, in those really, really low games like last week against Carolina, Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly got away from the run early.
No, Shady is really running the ball fine. He’ll end up with between 1,200 and 1,300 yards, most likely, which while not eye popping is also respectable.
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In reality, it’s the passing game where McCoy’s numbers have fallen off dramatically and really was where he made a name for himself last season. Shady caught 52 balls last year for 539 yards, a weapon in the Eagles’ dangerous screen game.
This year? How about 21 catches for 92 yards.
I see a few key factors here. First, is the offensive line. All of those injuries took a toll on the offense beyond execution and into game planning. For much of the season the Eagles really didn’t have guys capable of blocking in the screen game, which is an art form. You need to dupe the defense into believing it’s a straight pass and then at the right instant spring into action, destroying guys as you rumble down the field. Not everyone can do it and even fewer can do it well.
The second and third factors both involve a new addition, and that’s Darren Sproles. For one, he’s really eaten up a lot of those catches that used to go to Shady as Chip tries to work another weapon into the fold. The other is that Indianapolis game, which the Eagles won for no other reasons than the screen game and throws to the running back. Sproles caught seven passes (a third of his season total) that game for 152 yards (just 105 yards receiving the rest of the season). Coaches saw that and have schemed accordingly ever since.
What was once a big part of both Chip Kelly’s offense and LeSean McCoy’s production has become an afterthought, buried in the playbook. If the Eagles can figure out a way to get the screen game going again, expect more Shady-2013 type of days. If not, this is the new normal, and really, the new normal isn’t all that bad.