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Eagle Eye: Who's the better back?
Adrian Peterson (1,221 yards) and LeSean McCoy (1,305) are the NFL's leading rushers this year. (AP)
When LeSean McCoy looks at Adrian Peterson and ponders the body of work he’s put together over the last seven years, he sees exactly where he wants to be.
This year? The numbers are similar. McCoy has 84 more rushing yards and a higher average (5.0 to 4.6), Peterson has more touchdowns (11 to eight), McCoy has more receiving yards, and they each have a 200-yard game.
What Peterson has that McCoy doesn’t have -- yet -- is a career of consistency.
Six 1,200-yard seasons in the last seven years. Double-digit touchdowns every year he’s been in the league. A 4.4 average or better every year of his career.
McCoy is leading the NFL in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage, but he believes that until he does it year after year, he won’t be able to snag the mantle of NFL’s best from the electrifying Peterson.
“He’s one of the best backs to ever play this game, and I think the last couple years he’s been very consistent, he’s put numbers up, and his play speaks for itself,” McCoy said of Peterson.
“When we saw Minnesota on the schedule, my eyes got big. I thought it was a chance to go 1-on-1 with one of the best backs. You always love to compete and go against one of the elite guys in the NFL.”
McCoy and Peterson, who rank No. 1 and 2 in the NFL in rushing yards, will be on the same field Sunday, when the Eagles and Vikings meet at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Whether Peterson is able to play a week after suffering a foot injury is unknown (see story). The Eagles’ defense may not agree, but McCoy said he hopes Peterson can play.
“I think it’s a nice challenge for our team and also for myself,” he said. “I think the 1-on-1 battle, it’s another tool, something to put on the bulletin board, just to go out and play hard.
“But the big challenge is really just going to Minnesota and getting the win. We have a lot we’re playing for and it’s a big game and hopefully he’s healthy and he does play.”
McCoy is coming off a franchise-record 217-yard game against the Lions in the snow at the Linc. He has 1,305 yards this year and needs just 208 to break Wilbert Montgomery’s single-season franchise record of 1,512, set in 1979.
Peterson has 1,221 yards a year after leading the NFL with 2,097, just eight fewer than Eric Dickerson’s record, set in 1984.
Over the last three years, Peterson (4,813 yards) and McCoy (4,581) lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage.
Where does McCoy rank himself?
“I definitely think I’m in the top five,” McCoy said. “Top three, I feel like. There’s some good backs.”
Asked who he’d rank at the top, McCoy at first joked, “Gotta put Knowshon No. 1,” referring to Denver’s Knowshon Moreno, who he’s disparaged on Twitter.
Then, getting serious, he added: “A.P., gotta say right now for sure, last couple years, last three years, four years, gotta put A.P. up there. Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore’s another guy who’s been doing it consistently. I like [Marshawn] Lynch too.
“I don’t like to give you them in order, but just some of the top guys. Arian Foster’s another guy. He’s banged up, but he’s still in there, one of the better backs.”
You never know with running backs. They can lose it quickly. We’ve seen it happen. But McCoy is only 25 and already only 1,367 yards from Montgomery’s Eagles career rushing record.
He has a chance to be one of the greats by the time he’s done.
McCoy is 11th in NFL history in total yards by a running back before his 26th birthday and 15th in rushing yards.
Most of the guys ahead of him on both lists are Hall of Famers or will be.
Asked what characteristics he values when ranking running backs, McCoy said it goes way beyond simply who has the most rushing yards.
“What makes you special,” he said. “Guys have a pretty good offensive line, they’ll get yards, but what else do you do special?
“Is he a shifty back? Does he run you over? Can he catch? Can he run routes? Is he a matchup mismatch for other defenders? Route running, catching the ball, blocking. What makes him special?
“All those guys I just mentioned, I could give you two, three, four, five attributes that make them a special back.”
McCoy’s 4.72 career average is fourth-highest in NFL history among tailbacks with at least 1,000 carries and 250 receptions and 11th-highest overall.
He’s one of only four players in NFL history with at least 600 rushing yards and 40 receptions in each of their first five seasons.
And his seven career fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 40 yards or more is three more than anybody else who’s ever played the game.
Asked what makes him one of the league’s best, McCoy paused for a moment and then spoke.
“I think just the ability to have vision,” he said. “You calculate all the backs that are top guys, you look at what they do special, I look at myself and watch myself on tape, I would say vision. Very elusive, long-distance guy. Just hard to tackle.”
And what does McCoy believe he has to do to supplant Peterson as the NFL’s best?
“I made All-Pro in 2011 [but] last year, I didn’t make All-Pro,” he said. “Just being consistent, putting numbers up, winning games. That’s all you can go by. Production and what you see on tape.”
McCoy’s franchise-record 217-yard game Sunday may have put McCoy on the national map for the first time, but he said he’s put that in the past, and he’s focused only on the Vikings right now.
“Breaking the record was definitely something special and that day I definitely enjoyed it, but I’ve moved on,” he said. “Came to work the same way the next day. This week started off the same as last week. Nothing has changed. In this league, it’s all about what have you done for me lately and lately is this week, it’s Minnesota.”