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Deitch: For Eagles to be good, LeSean McCoy has to be great

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 07:00 AM

Deitch

Deitch: For Eagles to be good, LeSean McCoy has to be great

Published: Friday, December 28, 2012

By DENNIS DEITCH
ddeitch@delcotimes.com, @DennisDeitch



PHILADELPHIA — From the moment Jason Peters went down with a season-ending injury before training camp had even started, to the MRI of Nick Foles’ hand showed a fracture that would mean Michael Vick won’t get out of Philadelphia without making one more start, this has been a lost season for the Eagles.

No one was spared. They had exactly zero players named to a Pro Bowl that usually winds up begging players to attend.

LeSean McCoy will be in the backfield Sunday against the Giants. Unless he figures out a way to roll up 205 yards at the Meadowlands his streak of consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons will end at two. It didn’t help that he missed four games with a concussion. But even without taking the late-game shot to the head in a blowout loss at Washington — an incident that only stoked the flames of fury for Andy Reid detractors — McCoy had been having a season that already had stalled his rise up the list of elite running backs.

A year ago, McCoy had 17 rushing touchdowns in 15 games. He enters the season finale with two rushing TDs in 11 games. A year ago he tore up the Cowboys with an 185-yard rushing performance and had 241 yards in two games against a championship-quality Giants defense. He has had just three 100-yard rushing days this season, one against a laughably bad Browns team, the other against a Saints defense that was hobbled in the offseason by suspensions and fines for a bounty program. In 2011 he averaged 4.8 yards per carry; this season that total is down to 4.2.

There are plenty of reasons behind the drop off. Losing Peters was a huge blow, and the handful of other injuries along the offensive line didn’t help, either. That said, Bryce Brown did rush for 350 yards in his first two starts replacing McCoy, that nagging inability to hold onto the football aside.

McCoy had been one of the best at his craft last season. There was a feeling he might emerge as the best running back in the NFL this season. But that has not been the case.

As McCoy stood in the locker room at the NovaCare Complex Thursday he told reporters that he doesn’t really pay attention to how other teams are doing. But other running backs?

“I like to watch other running backs,” McCoy said. “It gives me a little motivation, to see those guys in the playoffs.”

Who will he see in the playoffs? Well, there is a chance he will see Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (1,898 rushing yards), who went from being the best running back on earth, to being considered banged up and perhaps washed up, and back to being the best running back on earth this year. He will see Marshawn Lynch (1,490 rushing yards), who has been good enough to give a rookie quarterback in Seattle enough support to turn the Seahawks into a point-scoring machine.

He will see Alfred Morris (1,413), who as a rookie in Washington takes a publicity backseat to the phenomenon known as RGIII, yet has been an invaluable sidekick for another rookie QB as he adjusts to the NFL. He will see Arian Foster (1,328), the incumbent “Best Running Back in the NFL” who finally has a championship quality team around him in Houston.

There will be Frank Gore with San Francisco, and Stevan Ridley in New England in the postseason. Those are the running backs McCoy will watch, will study. Those are the competition.

There will be a lot of work to do in order to get the Eagles back to respectability. It could be a long road back, or it can be a quick fix. It’s tough to say which path they will take. But one thing is certain: If the Eagles are going to bounce back quickly from this disaster of a 2012, then Shady McCoy must zip past a few of those aforementioned names on the short list of top running backs.

“As frustrated as I would be about comparing myself to other backs,” McCoy said, “I would be overlooked because of the year we’re having.

“You think about it after the season is over. I just have to work hard next year and try to stay healthy.”

Health matters. The team around him matters. But the bottom line is this: In 2013, McCoy can’t be good. He needs to be great.

That is a must if the Eagles want to return to respectability.

To contact Dennis Deitch, email

ddeitch@delcotimes.com. Follow him

on Twitter @DennisDeitch.