1 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

September 04, 2011

The defense still has holes, but the offense is the real McCoy

He exceeded all expectations and was one of the league's most explosive players. Had he not been given the starting job last season, there's no way the Eagles would have finished third in the league in points, second in total offense or first in plays of 20 yards or more. No player in Philadelphia proved to be more versatile, more dynamic.

We are not speaking of quarterback Michael Vick but of running back LeSean McCoy. In just his second season the 5' 11'', 215-pound McCoy was named All-Joe—a USA Today team selected by NFL players to honor underappreciated overachievers—but was also worthy of being All-Pro. "All you have to do is check the stats," Vick says. "He's someone you have to account for. He's a force."

McCoy became Philadelphia's first 1,000-yard rusher since Brian Westbrook in 2007, and his 5.2 yards per carry ranked fourth among running backs. He was one of only three players to lead his team in both rushing (1,080 yards) and receptions (78), ranking fourth overall with 1,672 total yards from scrimmage. "LeSean came into his own," coach Andy Reid says. "He's one of the shiftier backs in the league. He also has the hands of a wide receiver."

Into his own, but not into the same echelon as Vick and wideout DeSean Jackson, Pro Bowlers whom McCoy calls "the two most electrifying players in the NFL."

"Everyone talks about how great Michael Vick is, or how fast DeSean Jackson is, and I'm just the finisher," McCoy adds with a laugh, only half joking about his role as a fourth-quarter clock eater.

A native of Harrisburg, Pa., McCoy rushed for more than 2,800 yards in two seasons at Pitt and was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft, setting an Eagles rookie record with 637 rushing yards on 4.1 yards per carry. After that season, he promised Reid he'd pay better attention to his nutrition and return stronger, which his coach credits with the uptick of more than a yard per carry last season. "I think since he grew up near Hershey, he enjoyed the fruits of the candy world," Reid says. "But he changed that and really dedicated himself to the profession. People who know football know how valuable he is to our team."

It's common to think of the Eagles as a pass-happy bunch. They were the only team to have two players (Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) finish among the league's top 20 receivers last year, their seventh straight as a top 10 passing team. They also led the league in quick strikes, with 11 touchdown drives of fewer than four plays. But the perception of the Philadelphia offense as an aerial circus, says offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, "is a little different from reality." In fact, the Eagles were fifth in rushing in 2010—up from 22nd in each of the previous two seasons—and were first in yards per carry (5.4).

Vick's contribution to the ground game is undeniable. He ran for 676 yards and nine touchdowns (two more than McCoy), and his average of 6.8 yards per carry was the best in the NFL. But even taking his production out of the equation, Philly's average of 5.0 would still have led the league.

Big plays supplemented by a running game that can protect leads and keep opposing offenses off the field will again be the Eagles' M.O. Their biggest off-season acquisition on offense was former Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, who, along with McCoy, will keep the clock and the chains moving. That should help a defense that must break in eight new starters—even if one of them is the summer's top free agent, ex-Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews, a fourth-round pick out of Oregon (and Clay's brother), will be relaying the play calls from new coordinator Juan Castillo, the team's offensive line coach the past 13 seasons.

"Anybody can put big names on paper," says cornerback Asante Samuel, who has been to the last four Pro Bowls. "We've got to figure out how it's going to be put together."

McCoy might not have the cachet of, say, Asomugha, who inspired the Eagles' (somewhat presumptuous) Dream Team moniker, but his contributions are undeniable. Reid values efficiency, and a back who keeps drives alive with five-yard bursts will help cover the holes exposed—and only partially addressed in the off-season—by the Packers during their 21--16 victory in last year's NFC wild-card round.

"With all of our weapons," McCoy likes to say, "I get the shadows."

When it comes to Philadelphia's weapons, defenses would be wise not to get blinded by the spotlight.

PROJECTED LINEUP

WITH 2010 STATS

OFFENSE

2010 Rank: 12

QB MICHAEL VICK

ATT 372

COMP 233

PCT 62.6

YARDS 3,018

YD/ATT 8.11

TD 21

INT 6

RATING 100.2

RB LESEAN MCCOY

ATT 207

YARDS 1,080

REC 78

TTD 9

FB OWEN SCHMITT

ATT 0

YARDS 0

REC 19

TTD 1

WR DESEAN JACKSON

REC 47

YARDS 1,056

AVG 22.5

TTD 7

WR JEREMY MACLIN

REC 70

YARDS 964

AVG 13.8

TTD 10

TE BRENT CELEK

REC 42

YARDS 511

AVG 12.2

TTD 4

LT JASON PETERS

G 13

SACKS 2

HOLD 3

FALSE 3

LG TODD HERREMANS

G 16

SACKS 3½

HOLD 2

FALSE 2

C JAMAAL JACKSON

G 1

SACKS 1½

HOLD 0

FALSE 0

RG DANNY WATKINS (R)

G 13

STARTS 13

RT RYAN HARRIS

G 11

SACKS 3¼

HOLD 0

FALSE 2

RB RONNIE BROWN

ATT 200

YARDS 734

REC 33

TTD 5

WR JASON AVANT

REC 51

YARDS 573

AVG 11.2

TTD 1

DEFENSE

2010 Rank: 12

DE JUQUA PARKER

TACKLES 22

SACKS 6

INT 0

DT MIKE PATTERSON

TACKLES 37

SACKS 2

INT 0

DT ANTONIO DIXON

TACKLES 30

SACKS 2

INT 0

DE TRENT COLE

TACKLES 65

SACKS 10

INT 0

LB JAMAR CHANEY

TACKLES 34

SACKS 0

INT 0

LB CASEY MATTHEWS (R)

TACKLES 79

SACKS 3

INT 3

LB MOISE FOKOU

TACKLES 36

SACKS 1

INT 0

CB ASANTE SAMUEL

TACKLES 26

SACKS 0

INT 7

SS NATE ALLEN

TACKLES 48

SACKS 2

INT 3

FS KURT COLEMAN

TACKLES 26

SACKS 0

INT 1

CB NNAMDI ASOMUGHA

TACKLES 19

SACKS 0

INT 0

DB DOMINIQUE RODGERS-CROMARTIE

TACKLES 44

SACKS 0

INT 3

SPECIALISTS

K ALEX HENERY (R)

FG 18

FGA 19

XP 54

PTS 108

P CHAS HENRY (R)

PUNTS 50

GROSS 45.1

BOLD: Projected starter

Italics: New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

TTD: Total touchdowns

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

SACKS: Sacks allowed

HOLD: Holding penalties

FALSE: False starts

2011 SCHEDULE

2010 RECORD: 10--6

September

11 at St. Louis

18 at Atlanta

25 N.Y. Giants

October

2 San Francisco

9 at Buffalo

16 at Washington

23 BYE

30 Dallas

November

7 Chicago (Mon)

13 Arizona

20 at N.Y. Giants

27 New England

December

1 at Seattle (Thu)

11 at Miami

18 N.Y. Jets

24 at Dallas (Sat)

January

1 Washington

COACH: ANDY REID

AGE: 53

13TH SEASON WITH THE EAGLES (128-82-1)

When responding to questions from reporters, Reid often prefaces his answers with the word listen. It's something he doesn't often have to tell his players. The longest-tenured coach in the league commands authority in the locker room and is perfectly suited to managing the egos—and the Eagles have plenty of playmakers who want the ball—that could turn a Dream Team into a nightmare.

SPOTLIGHT

VINCE YOUNG, Quarterback

Few franchises appreciate a quality backup quarterback more than the Eagles. It took all of the first half of last season's opener against the Packers before starter Kevin Kolb was knocked out of the game, which paved the way for Michael Vick's renaissance in Philadelphia.

The Eagles are back in the reclamation game. After trading the reliable Kolb to the Cardinals for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft pick four days after the lockout ended, the franchise signed the 28-year-old Young, the 2006 offensive rookie of the year and a two-time Pro Bowler. Young's act had grown old in Tennessee, and the curtain swiftly descended last November. That's when he lost his starting job after throwing his shoulder pads and jersey into the stands near the end of a loss to the Redskins and, according to reports, arguing with coach Jeff Fisher in the locker room.

Aside from attaching the Dream Team moniker to his new team, Young hasn't shown any lapses in judgment in Philadelphia. Coach Andy Reid's offense is a complicated one, but, as Vick did last season, Young is getting a handle on it. "I don't care about any of that [stuff] in the past—this is a great environment for him," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg says. "When you're driving a car in a tunnel and it's dark, you better be driving the thing straight—and he's on track."

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (MCCOY)FIVE YARDS AND A CLOUD OF DUST The quarterback and his fleet receivers generate the most electricity in a quick-strike offense, but McCoy brings opponents to the ground in crunch time. PHOTOBOB ROSATO PHOTOAL TIELEMANS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)