Philadelphia RB LeSean McCoy, not QBs, could be key to Eagles' success
PHILADELPHIA – Whoever Chip Kelly chooses to be the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback may have plenty of success by doing one simple thing: handing the ball to LeSean McCoy.
While Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley will get most of the attention during training camp, McCoy could be the most important part of Philadelphia's offense. The 25-year-old running back is looking to get back to his All-Pro form of 2011.
"I want to be more dominant," McCoy said. "The last few years I've had good years, but I want to be dominant. I think in this offense, there's the ability to run the ball more, where I can really take over a game. There have been flashes of it in the past, but having the ability to do it day in and day out, game in and game out, I think that's a different story."
The Eagles held their first full squad practice Friday, and the pads will be on for the first time Sunday when the team moves across the street to Lincoln Financial Field and welcomes in 60,000 fans.
They might be treated to an unfamiliar sight if Kelly emphasizes the run game, as expected.
It's no secret that former Eagles coach Andy Reid had a pass-first philosophy. The offense ran the ball just 38.2 percent of the time last year. Their highest average during McCoy's first four seasons was 43.4 percent in 2011. That's when McCoy had 1,309 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl.
But Reid is now in Kansas City teaching his version of the West Coast offense. Kelly has a unique offensive system of his own. He prefers an up-tempo style centered on moving quickly, running a lot of plays and keeping defenses off-balance. At Oregon, Kelly's offense averaged 44.7 points in four years. The Ducks ran the ball at least 61.7 percent of the time during those four seasons.
"Chip has shown that he runs the ball a lot, so I think that's the difference," McCoy said. "I want to get back to that old stage where I'm taking over a game. I think with all the talent and supporting cast around me, that should be easy. With the offense around me, there's not as much pressure where you have to do everything. There are certain guys on different teams where if they don't play well, their team doesn't do well, and with the Eagles that isn't the case."
The Eagles have several playmakers on offense, including two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, wideouts Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant and tight end Brent Celek. Tight ends are a key part of Kelly's offense, so he added free agent James Casey and rookie second-round pick Zach Ertz. Running backs Bryce Brown and Felix Jones give the offense even more options.
"That helps me out a little bit, but as a competitor I want to be one of those guys in the offense where in the fourth quarter, I want the ball," McCoy said. "I want that type of attitude, and the type of person Coach Kelly is, he has that attitude also. It makes us more dominant as a team if each guy has that attitude and wants the ball and is willing to make plays. You don't know where to go as a defense."
So whether Vick, Foles or even Barkley end up behind center for the season opener at Washington on Sept. 9, the Eagles have the foundation for a dynamic offense.
"I think we'll be dangerous," McCoy said. "I think we have potential to make some big noise. I think the biggest thing with this offense is it gets you in open space. We're constantly going. Foot on the gas, we're constantly going. I think when teams are getting tired and thinking about defensive strategies, we're gone. We're pushing it, high-tempo. I think it will be good for us, and the good thing now with this team, we finally have more depth, especially at running back."
Nothing went right for Philadelphia last season when they finished 4-12. Injuries were a problem for the offense. Only one offensive lineman finished the season, McCoy missed four games, Jackson sat out the last five and Vick got hurt before losing his job to Foles.
It's a new year, of course, and there's a ton of excitement surrounding the team with Kelly on board.
"The sky's the limit, not only Maclin and me, but McCoy, Celek, (Jason) Avant," Jackson said. "It's just from A to Z, I think it's a big difference. Nothing bad to say about Coach Reid's offense and his system and Marty Mornhinweg, but just the way Chip Kelly's coming in with (offensive coordinator) Pat Shurmur and things like that. I just think they've installed something very good here so we're very excited. I think everything is going to take off real fast."
Taking off fast could mean keeping the ball on the ground.
"I think that our running game should be second to none," lineman Todd Herremans said.
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