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Are we going from a coach who doesn’t use any running backs to a coach who uses two?
Pat Shurmur says yes.
Shurmur, Chip Kelly’s new offensive coordinator, said Monday that he plans to give both LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown a generous number of carries moving forward and said he thinks in general, offenses are more effective with two running backs in the mix.
McCoy, the Eagles’ 2011 Pro Bowl tailback, managed only 840 yards in 12 games in a concussion-shortened 2012 season. Brown had games of 178 and 169 rushing yards when McCoy was hurt but lost three fumbles in those two games.
Can they co-exist? Shurmur says no question about it.
“I think it’s important that you use more than one running back,” Shurmur said. “It’s a long season, and a guy can run out of gas quickly.
“If you have guys who are different, you can use them in different ways, and you try to play to their strengths. I think that’s important.
“I’ve always believed there’s a place on the roster for two good running backs. You have your starter, but the other guy needs to play so they can all get through the season.”
The Eagles last year were one of only two NFL teams to have two running backs with 500 or more yards and a 4.2 or higher average. The Super Bowl-champion Ravens were the other, with Ray Rice and Temple’s Bernard Pierce.
McCoy’s body work speaks for itself. He led the NFL with 20 touchdowns in 2011, when he rushed for 1,309 yards and caught 48 passes, and despite a concussion that sidelined him for four games last year, he still ran for 840 yards in 12 games.
Since he entered the league in 2009, McCoy is one of only three backs – with Ray Rice and Matt Forte – with 200 or more catches (220) and 3,500 rushing yards.
Brown, just 21, ran for 561 yards with a 4.9 average last year despite starting just four games.
It was the first time since 2003 – when Shurmur was Andy Reid’s quarterbacks coach here – that the Eagles have had two running backs with over 100 carries.
But last year was because of injury. Shurmur said he believes McCoy and Brown are both impact guys who should be a part of the offense right from the start.
A healthy, effective McCoy with a more sure-handed but still explosive Brown would be quite a challenge for opposing defenses.
“Bryce established himself as a good player last year,” Shurmur said. “He can score touchdowns, and that’s a big deal, a guy who can get in the end zone. We looked at him a lot when I was with Cleveland, and I really liked him.”
Shurmur said he expects Kelly to be a head coach who runs the ball a significant amount.
Which would be a dramatic change from Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, who often simply forgot McCoy was on the team.
“If you’re able to run the ball and score points, that’s ideal,” Shurmur said. “You also want to be explosive and efficient throwing the football. Whatever we have to do to score points and win games.”