How can Eagles defeat Cowboys?
LeSean McCoy's 630 rushing yards lead the NFL so far this season. (USA Today Images)
Forget that he leads the NFL in rushing by nearly 100 yards more than Arian Foster. Forget that he has the highest yards-per-carry average (5.1) than any running back with at least 75 carries.
LeSean McCoy, in his fifth season, is bringing more to the Eagles’ offense than just massive rushing yards and perpetual movement of the chains.
When head coach Chip Kelly talks about what he’s learned about his starting running back after his first nine months on the job, he doesn’t salivate over McCoy’s jaw-dropping jukes and Barry Sanders-like jitters.
“Did I know how talented he was? The one thing I've been really impressed with LeSean is that he's a complete running back,” Kelly said. “I think you look at him in blitz pickup and some things that go a little bit unnoticed … the Giants brought a couple blitzes (two Sundays ago) and just he stepped up and stoned the linebacker in the hole.”
McCoy is the centerpiece of an offense that he’s wanted to be since his Pitt days, a role he couldn’t occupy in Andy Reid’s pass-first scheme that limited his carries and tended to ignore whenever the Eagles ever fell behind.
Under Kelly, the Eagles’ offense isn’t just balanced, but also unconventional. Kelly isn’t afraid to run on 3rd-and-long. Likewise, with more teams passing on 3rd-and-short, Kelly still dials up McCoy’s number on those downs.
“In this offense it’s definitely different. Just the schemes,” McCoy said. “On one play there could be so many different options if we’re throwing the ball, running the ball, if the running back is running it or the quarterback. There are so many different reads.”
Kelly’s read-option schemes can’t function correctly if there’s no guesswork for the defense. He needs McCoy on the field to show run, even if the play eventually becomes a pass.
That’s where McCoy’s ability to recognize blitzes and chip edge rushers come in handy.
“That was something new for me, coming out of Pittsburgh,” McCoy said. “I wasn’t really asked to block so much. Just being around great backs like [Brian] Westbrook taught me that, with this team, to fit in here, just you’ve got to be able to not the leave the field. Blocking, running, catching, just doing everything that they ask. I’m just trying to be a complete back.”
The Eagles need every ounce of McCoy’s production that they can get Sunday at the Linc against the Cowboys in an NFC East battle between co-division leaders. The winner will stand alone at the top almost halfway through the season.
McCoy’s best career rushing game came two years ago against Dallas, when he racked up 185 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries at the Linc, a 34-7 win that seemed, at the time, like a page-turning triumph after the Eagles had started 1-4 before winning two straight.
Two of his four best career games have come against Dallas. In 2010, he ran for 149 yards on just 16 carries, an average of 9.3 yards per carry.
“The past is the past,” McCoy said. “Hopefully, I come up with a 186-yard game. That’ll make it even better.”
McCoy’s NFL-leading 871 yards from scrimmage are the most in franchise history after six games, ahead of Timmy Brown (832, 1965) and Westbrook (789, ’07). Only 19 players in the history of the league have had more yards after six weeks.
“That’s a new stat,” McCoy said. “A lot of credit to guys around me. It’s so hard to pay attention to just myself, when Nick [Foles] and Mike [Vick] are playing so well. DeSean [Jackson], [Brent] Celek and [Jason] Avant, and even [Riley] Cooper is playing very well. There’s so many different weapons you have to worry about.
“I’m sure the Cowboys are looking at every position, [saying], ‘OK, how do we stop this guy and this guy?’ I don’t really get all the attention. I don’t really get all the focus on me. We’ve got so many different guys making plays.”