Published December 08, 2011
| Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA – It's been more than half a century since a Philadelphia Eagle led the NFL in rushing.
LeSean McCoy is hoping to end that drought.
McCoy, who has led the NFL in rushing for much of the season and was just three yards behind the lead as play began Thursday night, is hoping to match Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren, who did it four times in five years — 1945, 1947, 1948 and 1949 — for a franchise that is 79 years old.
Keep in mind, McCoy is only 23, and is just in his second year as a full-time starter.
The Eagles (4-8) take on the Miami Dolphins (4-8) on Sunday.
"It's big," McCoy said of a potential rushing crown. "When you're competing with other guys around the league, you look forward to it."
McCoy rushed for 637 yards as a rookie in 2009 sharing time in the backfield with Brian Westbrook and fullback Leonard Weaver. Last year, he finished 14th with 1,080.
This year, McCoy has been remarkably consistent. Excluding a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which he was limited to 18 yards on nine carries by the NFL's No. 1-ranked rush defense, McCoy has 70 or more rushing yards in every game.
He lost the NFL rushing lead to Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew on Monday. Jones-Drew now has 1,137, while McCoy has 1,134. They were the only 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL before the Pittsburgh Steelers met the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
Since 1988, only four NFC running backs have led the NFL in rushing: Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (Detroit) and Emmitt Smith (Dallas) four times each, and Shaun Alexander (Seattle) and Adrian Peterson (Minnesota).
"The offensive line has a lot to do with it," McCoy said. "It's not always a me-me-me thing or an individual-type of accomplishment. You never catch yourself in a game worrying about, 'I've got to get some more yards.' After the game, you think, 'How did I do stats-wise?' But you never think about that during the game.
"You're trying to win the game."
It hasn't worked, though, as the Eagles still find themselves mired in last place in the NFC East. But at the least, it's a good theory.
"You ask Drew that or (Buffalo's Fred) Jackson that, I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing," McCoy said. "But I'd lying if I said it wasn't something special to do. To say that you led the league in rushing, that's something big."
McCoy has run for at least 110 yards in all four Eagles victories. And this weekend, he faces the No. 5 rush defense in Miami.
"You look at the tape to see what's their weakness," McCoy said about his preparations. "Maybe it's better running to the left than to the right, whatever, small stuff.
"There have been teams that have been top ranked against the run, and we ran all over them. So, whatever the game plan is, whatever's working, that's probably what we're going to do."
As magical as McCoy's season has been, he said all the losses make his personal achievements a bit hollow.
"It's frustrating," he said. "Knowing the type of team we have and how good we can be, the potential."
NOTES: Also Thursday, rookie linebacker Casey Matthews, benched after starting the first three games, said he's replaced Jamar Chaney in the team's nickel package. Chaney will remain the starting middle linebacker. "It's another opportunity to go out there and show what I can do," Matthews said. "I need to take advantage of it this time." ... The Eagles are 0-2 already vs. the AFC East, losing to New England and Buffalo.