For the first time in the Andy Reid era, the Eagles have opened training camp depending on a guy with as little experience as McCoy to be the featured back.
The second-year player from Pitt led the Eagles in rushing with 637 yards on 155 carries as a rookie but wore down late in the season, averaging just six carries and 22 yards the last five games.
His offseason conditioning regimen focused on bulking up his legs and lower body to better break tackles and absorb the blow at contact. The length of the pro season, doubling that in college, also took a toll on his body.
Then there was grasping the offense, which McCoy spent too much time doing, saying he played to not make mistakes.
"You can't really go 100 percent if you don't know the offense, but you're thinking or you're wondering instead of just going out and playing," he said. "You go out and play first and think second and have better results."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is not naive when it comes to knowing his offense hinges on a back capable of catching the ball out of the backfield and pass protecting, especially with a young offensive line and first-year starting quarterback.
"That experience he built up as a rookie will pay off this year," Mornhinweg said. "Many times you'll make a pretty good jump between your rookie and your second year. Sometimes it's between your second and third year. But I would expect him to make a pretty good jump this year."
The Eagles hope so. Behind McCoy is Mike Bell, who had some success in Denver and New Orleans, and a stable of unproven running backs. Charles Scott, a rookie from LSU, and Martell Mallett, last year's rookie of the year in the Canadian Football League, were the only running backs to take reps in the five practices before veterans reported.
With so much unknown at the running-back position, Scott and Mallett view camp as an opportunity to latch on and contribute.
"It definitely adds fuel to the fire, but I just go out and play like it's my last day because you never know when it will be your last day practicing," said Mallett, who wants to add about 3 pounds to his 205-pound frame.
Scott is just eager to practice with the full squad and try to find his niche in a system that calls for a back to be versatile.
Even with his role undefined, Scott knows teams in today's NFL require more than just one guy to carry the load.
"In this league, I believe truly with the length of the season and just the physicality of the game you've got to have two or three backs just in case," said Scott, a 237-pound bruiser. "You never know with a long season what's going to happen, who's going to get hurt. God forbid anybody gets hurts, but it happens in this league."