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LeSean McCoy is one of only seven players in NFL history with 3,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards before his 25th birthday, and he now has Chip Kelly, a known proponent of the run game, scheming for him. (AP)
It’s an offense perfectly suited to LeSean McCoy, and Thursday night we’ll get our first glimpse of just how the former all-pro running back fits into Chip Kelly’s high-voltage scheme.
McCoy, who missed the Eagles’ first preseason game and a few training camp practices with a sore knee, is scheduled to make his 2013 preseason debut Thursday night, when the Eagles face the Panthers at the Linc.
Although most of the starters are slated to play the entire first half, McCoy probably will split time with Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, since the coaches need to see Brown and Polk with the starters but also because McCoy will likely be limited in his first game.
McCoy, who missed four games last year and was limited in two others because of a mid-season concussion, can’t wait to get started.
“It’s a big preaseason for us as a team, and a big preseason for me,” McCoy said. “Just want to get back into it a little bit. It’ll be good for us to get the timing down, since I didn’t play in the first preseason game, so I just want to get a feel for it, get some chemistry going with the guys, and I think it’ll be good for me.”
How much work will he get?
Good question. Everybody knows what McCoy can do – he was the best running back in the NFC in 2011, when he went to his first Pro Bowl. But we have yet to see him in Kelly’s offense.
“Trying to be healthy, trying to be smart, but also need to get enough work in where I’m confident in myself and they’re confident in me,” McCoy said.
“The coaches do a good job of balancing that out and making sure I get the work I need. I’m going to have some work, for sure, and I need some.”
The Eagles and Panthers meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Linc in the second preseason game for both teams.
The Panthers’ defense should be a good challenge for the Eagles’ starting offense. Carolina finished as a top-10 defense last year under head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, both former assistants under Reid.
“I think it’ll be a big step for LeSean to get out there this weekend and get a feel for the game again,” quarterback Michael Vick said. “After the way last year ended, with him being hurt, it’ll be big for him to get back into his groove.”
McCoy was limited to 840 rushing yards, 1,213 total yards and five touchdowns last year after his breakthrough 2011 season, when he rushed for 1,309 yards and led the NFL with 20 touchdowns.
With the Eagles falling behind week after week and head coach Andy Reid and offensive Marty Mornhinweg bailing out on the ground attack on a weekly basis, McCoy was reduced to an afterthought last year even before he got hurt.
After averaging 20 carries and 96 rushing yards the first month of the season, when the Eagles went 3-1, he averaged 14½ carries and 57 yards per game the rest of the year, as the Eagles plummeted to the NFC East cellar.
McCoy played in just two games after suffering his concussion against the Redskins in mid-November and had just 23 carries in those games.
“It was a frustrating year, but really just because we were losing more than anything,” he said. “Injuries happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Now McCoy is in a system that should accentuate his versatility.
His 220 catches over the last four years are second-most of any NFL tailback since 2009, behind only Ray Rice’s 278.
McCoy is one of only seven players in NFL history with 3,500 rushing yards and 1,500 receiving yards before his 25th birthday.
“I think Chip has presented me with a great opportunity to do different things, run the ball, catch the ball, be all over the field,” McCoy said.
“Coming out of the chute with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder this year because I sense that I’m under the radar a little bit, but I like it like that.”
McCoy is also going to like running behind a beefed-up offensive line that should be one of the NFL’s best.
As last year progressed and the Eagles lost almost their entire starting O-line to injury, the holes McCoy had been used to seeing began to close up.
“They look good, from the rookie [right tackle Lane Johnson] all the way to the oldest vet,” McCoy said. “I’m excited to get out there and play with those guys. We’re going to find out what they’ve got.”
It’s going to be fun seeing how Kelly uses McCoy as the season evolves. And even tonight.
We know Kelly loves to run, loves to throw to the backs, loves to put versatile players in multiple positions.
Only eight players in NFL history – including Brian Westbrook in 2006 and 2007 – have recorded 1,200 rushing yards and 75 catches in a season.
But that’s the kind of year McCoy could have.
“They love him here,” Vick said. “I’ve been telling Shady for the last three months that we’re going to have to lean on him in this offense. It’s run-oriented and it can be predominantly run at times, and he’s going to have a good time in it. I’m excited to see what he can do.”