The Washington Redskins defense weren’t the only ones who looked completely exhausted by the end of the Eagles’ 33-27 win on Monday night. Michael Vick was hit seven times on dropbacks and ran nine times with the football, and was noticeably hobbled in the final minutes. By his career-high 31st carry, LeSean McCoy practically needed to be scraped off of the turf.
Usage is going to be a concern all season as long as Chip Kelly’s offense keeps moving at 100 miles per hour, inevitably leading the NFL in plays from scrimmage. Vick has only made it through a 16-game season once in his life to begin with, while Shady is currently on pace for 496 carries which would absolutely destroy Larry Johnson’s record 416.
Obviously McCoy isn’t going to touch the ball 500 times in a season, and only Vick can truly protect himself, but the question remains. How are these guys going to survive the season at this torrid pace?
Forget the season. The first true test with regard to these heavy workloads will arrive in eight days. The Eagles host the San Diego Chargers this Sunday, then must turn right around and play a game against the Kansas City Chiefs four days later next Thursday.
If you think Vick is limping around now, and Shady seemed gassed on Monday, what condition do you imagine they’ll be in after they’ve played their third full NFL game in a span of 11 days?
It’s a little simpler to conserve Shady, at least in theory. Bryce Brown did have nine carries at Washington, and figures to be featured in that spell role going forward. Chris Polk was conspicuously absent from the offense this week, but he’ll likely get some touches in the future.
Of course, McCoy was the only person Chip could rely on the salt the lead away in the fourth quarter, a big reason for his inflated number of carries. Brown hasn’t yet shaken the reputation that he’s prone to fumbles, and they haven’t even trusted Polk enough to give him the ball at all.
How they plan to keep Vick upright is another dilemma entirely. This is the same guy who took it upon himself to become Shady’s lead blocker on Monday – twice! As much as you have to like it when your quarterback is doing whatever it takes to win, Vick’s lack of an “off” switch and unwillingness to concede a play is over are going to get him killed – as usual.
Not much Chip or anybody else can do for Vick at this point. McCoy’s load is the real issue here.
It will be interesting to see how the snaps are divided at running back in the coming weeks, but the recipe calls for more Brown with a dash of Polk. The Eagles should lean on those two more earlier in games especially, so the biggest weapon in that backfield is still at the team’s full disposal when the fourth quarter rolls around.
Chip was asked about the proximity of the games at his day-after press conference, and didn't sound concerned in the least:
We've known the schedule since we got here. We know every game is the ultimate importance for us. There's no way you can say, Hey, we got another game next Thursday, let's focus and concentrate on that. I think everybody's attention is on getting ready to play San Diego. That's what this thing is all about.
It’s great to have a head coach who is committed to the running game, but the new challenge is finding the right balance of playing time for one of the best backs in the league. Chip Kelly seems to have a plan for everything though, so it’s possible there isn’t really a problem here at all.