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LeSean McCoy isn’t just excited about his personal potential in coach Chip Kelly’s spread offense. He thinks backup Bryce Brown and third-stringer Chris Polk will get plenty of chances to showcase themselves, too.
McCoy, speaking publicly to reporters Thursday for the first time since the end of a tumultuous 2012 season, hinted that Kelly’s laser-paced spread offense wouldn’t just let him pick and choose wide gaps to run between but also create plenty of opportunities for his two backups to move the chains.
After all, if the Eagles function the way Kelly hopes they can, the offense should churn out anywhere between 75 and 100 plays per game.
“You’re going to need another back in this offense,” he said. “This is an offense where it’s not a debate, ‘Oh, I can do it myself,’ because, for one, you’re going to do more plays than any other offense.
“For two, it’s the amount of hits. You’re running so much. You’re constantly going. I think any back, no matter how great of a shape he’s in, you’re going to need some extra help. I know that. Bryce is good enough where he can play. Every team has two good backs.”
“And don’t be surprised if Chris Polk gets some carries, because you’re running so much it’s like a freakin’ track meet. It’s like a relay. You need extra guys.”
If it’s a relay team, the Eagles should have plenty of kick down the stretch.
McCoy, who made the Pro Bowl in 2011, is still one of the league’s most explosive tailbacks. Brown, a surprise seventh-round pick last year, set an NFL record for most rushing yards in his first two starts. Polk, a rookie free agent last year, didn’t get a single snap because of injuries but had some red-zone packages designed for him and automatically moved up the depth chart after the team dealt Dion Lewis.
With those three ball carriers coupled with Kelly’s no-huddle attack and the attention commanded by Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, McCoy envisions a balanced and diverse offensive attack.
Usually, the biggest concern about former coach Andy Reid’s West Coast scheme was its heavy emphasis on passing and predictability.
McCoy said the running backs have watched cut-ups of Kelly’s offense at Oregon -- “The offense looks amazing,” he said -- for a feel on how they’ll be used, not only as ball carriers but also as receivers and blockers.
“I know in Coach Chip Kelly’s past at Oregon, they ran the ball a lot. I feel like we can throw the ball and run the ball,” he said. “ I feel like the offense fits the players very well. The linemen, they can move very well laterally, and it’s the playmakers around us. Run the ball, throwing the ball, I think we can be very successful in both.”
Of course, the Eagles are far from where they -- and the coaches -- expect themselves to be, with just three camp practices under their belts and the next full-team practice not until May 13.
Before they can execute at this high-powered, jet-setting pace, they need to be conditioned properly. Kelly on Tuesday had said this won’t be an overnight process. McCoy envisions one of the league’s most durable teams.
“For one, we’ll be in shape,” McCoy said. “I think we’ll be in the best shape in the league for sure. Just the pace. There’s never a time where we’re breaking. We hustle to working out, lifting weights, everything, even our meetings are fast. So that high-tempo, that high-pace is a different presence to a defense because you get that 30 seconds rest. You look to see the personnel they’re bringing in.
“With this offense, we’re shifting, we’re moving. As soon as you get tackled, there are no celebrations after the play. It’s strictly get the next play and let’s go. I want to say by the second or third quarter, teams are going to be tired. As you see at Oregon, that’s how they won a lot of their games. They’re scoring so fast. As a defense, you don’t get a chance to adjust because you’re moving so much.”
McCoy, who’s only 24 but already entering his fifth season, admitted to feeling skeptical at first about the hiring of Kelly, who has never coached in the NFL at any level. Not until he watched Kelly’s offense in the film room and learned about the advantages it should create did he feel optimistic about the team’s direction.
McCoy, who had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, rushed for only 840 yards last year as he missed four starts after suffering a concussion. Even before the injury, he was having a subpar year by his standards. He averaged just 4.2 yards per carry, the lowest since his rookie season, and watched his rushing yards per game average drop nearly 20 yards per game, from 87.3 to 70.0.
Even with Kelly’s reputation as an offensive mastermind, McCoy initially wasn’t sure how he felt about the regime change.
"I didn’t know,” he said. “But I’d seen the tape. Oregon put a ton of points up, an electrifying offense, and that’s all I really knew. The thing I knew was we were bringing a great offense in. As a coach, he’s a great guy. I didn’t know him. I feel like I’m getting to know him better each day.”