Eagles Notes: Eagles looking to not overwork McCoy

Even before LeSean McCoy signed a five-year, $45 million extension, coach Andy Reid suggested he would try to limit his touches.
Even before LeSean McCoy signed a five-year, $45 million extension, coach Andy Reid suggested he would try to limit his touches. (MATT SLOCUM / AP)
Posted: May 23, 2012

You don't spend millions on a top-of-the-line running back only to keep him parked in the garage.

But do you lighten his load, as Eagles coach Andy Reid said he would do with franchise tailback LeSean McCoy, because of the hefty investment?

McCoy played more snaps that any other running back in the NFL last season - and he sat out the finale. Even before McCoy signed a five-year, $45 million extension last week, Reid suggested that he was going to try and limit McCoy's touches.

But McCoy is only 23, won't turn 24 until July, and, really, the Eagles don't have a proven backup on the roster with full-squad practices set to start on Tuesday.

"We'll see. Every game's different," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Monday. "I would like to keep him healthy for a long career. That's certainly part of it - using him the right way and in an efficient way."

The Eagles have been down this road before. Reid did a fine job of not overworking Brian Westbrook early in his career when the Eagles ran much more than they do now. But Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter made it much easier to share snaps.

The candidates to back up McCoy are second-year tailback Dion Lewis, who has all of 23 career carries, and rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk.

When Westbrook became the primary ballcarrier for the Eagles, Reid would head into the season saying that he needed to limit Westbrook and use Buckhalter more often. And yet, when the games were played and Reid and Mornhinweg were in the heat of the moment, the majority of the touches went to Westbrook.

McCoy rushed 273 times in the first 15 games of 2011. Ronnie Brown, who was supposed to complement McCoy on occasion, totaled only 36 carries over that span. Lewis (11), fullback Owen Schmitt (4), and Chad Hall (3) split the remaining 18 handoffs. McCoy also caught 48 passes.

As much as he wanted more touches, McCoy was dinged up by the end of the season and averaged only 3.4 yards a carry in his final five games. The life span of running backs in the NFL has been well-documented.

"He's still young," Mornhinweg said, "but that position, with exceptions, ages pretty fast."

Morhinweg spoke of moving the Pro Bowl running back "around a little more," lining McCoy up in a variety of ways.

The Eagles offense, under Mornhinweg, set a franchise record for yards gained and first downs last season. But untimely turnovers sabotaged the unit's effectiveness.

Quarterback Michael Vick's ability to stay healthy, of course, will be one story line to watch heading into the season. But the Eagles can't afford to lose McCoy. Whether or not he plays less, he will still touch the ball more than other player besides Vick.

"He's got the opportunity," Mornhinweg said, "to be one of the great ones."

Chung for Mudd

Howard Mudd will miss practices this week as the Eagles attempt to keep the 70-year-old offensive line coach, who had hip-replacement surgery last October, fresh for the coming season.

Mudd, who resides in Arizona, has been back to Philadelphia on occasion this offseason, but he did skip rookie minicamp two weekends ago. There's a chance he won't be back until mid-June for minicamp.

In his place, Eugene Chung has guided the offensive line. The 42-year-old Chung joined the Eagles coaching staff three years ago. His title is assistant strength-and-conditioning coach but he has worked almost exclusively with the offensive line, first under Juan Castillo and now Mudd.

"It's two ends of the spectrum," Chung said of Castillo's and Mudd's blocking methods. "You try to take the best of each one and try to apply it to how you think it would work best."

With Mudd absent, however, Chung said that he's taught the veteran coach's "concepts the way he would teach it."

The Eagles aren't expected to rely on any rookie linemen this season, but right guard Danny Watkins and center Jason Kelce still have yet to participate in their first full offseason. Demetress Bell, acquired last month to replace the injured Jason Peters at left tackle, also has to learn Mudd's specific concepts.

Extra points

Third-round quarterback Nick Foles signed a four-year contract. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the Eagles' first-round selection, is the only draft pick that has yet to sign. . . . Quarterback Jacory Harris, a rookie free agentĀ out of Miami, was released.

Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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