McCoy still learning in prolific season

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McCoy still learning in prolific season

LeSean McCoy is already one of the top backs in football.

But hes still learning.

McCoy ran 27 times against the Dolphins last Sunday in the Eagles win but picked up just 38 yards for a measly average of 1.41 yards per carry.

I played terrible, McCoy said. My worst game of my NFL career. I just tried to make too much happen.

Spinning, cutting back, making something out of nothing. Thats what has made the 23-year-old stand out in his third NFL season. Hes second in the NFL and first in the NFC with 1,172 yards rushing but says he still needs to learn.

There were some lanes there, I was just trying to make too much happen instead of just taking the two yarder or the one yarder that was there, you know, evening it out, McCoy said. I just have to learn that sometimes you cant do all that, sometimes you cant be the big playmaker.

But theres no question McCoy is a playmaker. He has scored 14 rushing touchdowns and three receiving and has a chance to break the Eagles single-season record this year. He also leads the NFL with 13 runs of 20-plus yards.

McCoy said he didnt look like a guy who could be the NFLs rushing champ on Sunday vs. Miami. The game plan was for the Eagles to give him the ball (and they did, 27 times on the ground) and McCoy said he didnt feel like he lived up to his part of the deal, mainly because he tried to make too much out of nothing.

An important thing is this league is being satisfied with the little runs, the twos the ones, just even getting back to the line of scrimmage, McCoy said. I just hate negative runs.

If McCoy hates negative runs, it makes sense that he called the Dolphins game the worst of his pro career. Eight of his 27 runs went for negative yardage, most of which happened because McCoy wouldnt give up on a play.

McCoys first two runs against Miami gave him 20 yards. His next 25 yielded just 18. The Eagles star running back admitted that as the Dolphins kept shutting him down, he became getting more and more frustrated and then tried to do even more.

I was losing yardage trying to make plays, he said. Once they stopped me a couple of times, I got angry, frustrated. Im a competitor. I like to compete. I just tried to make too many things happen, trying to break too many tackles and spin out and do extra stuff. In this league you cant do too many things like that and be successful.

But those cutbacks, spin moves and magical plays are what caught the eye of the Eagles when McCoy entered the NFL from Pittsburgh.

I do remember him coming out and he came out with an awful lot of very good backs, I liked them all very much, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. But I remember I liked him the best for us and I just thought he was dynamic, changes direction, the way he catches the football, the way he makes people miss, these sort of things, I thought he was just a dynamic player.

So if he starts playing it safe, wouldnt that take away from what makes McCoy such a dynamic back in the first place?

As in many things, according to offensive lineman Evan Mathis, there needs to be a balance.

For a lot of backs in this league, a lot of them can only survive on trusting the initial play call, Mathis said. LeSean has the unique ability to make something out of nothing when the play call doesnt work, which usually involves cutting back.

The downside of that ability is if he trusts that ability over the initial play call.

Mathis said that McCoy can still utilize his unique ability but that trusting the play call should always come first. Then, McCoys improvisation can take hold.

What made McCoy really frustrated about the Dolphins game is that he knew he was going to get fed the ball a lot and he couldnt make big things happen. McCoy has had as few as nine carries in a game and as many as 30 in a game this season.

I didnt feel like I held up to my part, he said.

Often in his young career, McCoy has been compared to NFL all-time great Barry Sanders. Thats who the kid from Harrisburg, Pa. tried to model his game after. McCoy wore No. 20 in high school and admitted he even cried when Sanders retired at a young age.

McCoy wanted to be Barry Sanders, and maybe hes on his way. Sanders also had some negative runs in his career when he was trying to make something out of nothing.

Its weird because a lot of times it works out, McCoy said ponderously.

McCoy, indeed, has plenty to learn and he thinks it all starts with knowing when to give up on a play.

When the defense has you, the fight is over, McCoy said. If its a two-yard gain, just take it. I have to learn how to take the small runs.

He already has the big ones figured out.

E-mail Dave Zangaro at dzangaro@comcastsportsnet.com

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 4 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."