Eagles running back LeSean McCoy looks to continue record-breaking ways

Posted: July 16, 2012

LeSean McCoy took a handoff at the 1-yard line, danced around two defenders untouched, and made his way to the back of the end zone.

Clay Harbor was the first to greet him. Then came big Danny Watkins, who shared a few words with the running back on the cold December day. And after that, just like after any of his 20 touchdowns last season, McCoy calmly jogged back to the sideline.

But after this touchdown, he brought the football with him. McCoy spun the ball to someone who was waiting for it. A few minutes later, the ball sat on a table with a tag attached to it. It read "#25 TD run 3rd quarter 1yd."

The football was the 19th that crossed the goal line in McCoy's hands and was the record-breaking one in McCoy's breakout season.

Now, fresh off a campaign in which McCoy broke the franchise record for touchdowns in a season with 20 - 17 coming on the ground - the running back is days away from his fourth NFL training camp.

This time, pressure surrounds him to repeat - if not surpass - his dazzling 2011 season in which he rushed for 1,309 yards on 273 carries, good for an impressive 4.8 yards per carry average. He also caught 48 balls for 315 yards despite sitting out the final game of the season.

But in an era when the window for running backs shuts quickly, will the Eagles limit McCoy's touches? Will they put more of an emphasis on the passing game with DeSean Jackson happy again, and Jeremy Maclin and Michael Vick healthy again?

"We'll see. Every game's different," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said during workouts in May. "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."

McCoy, who recently turned 24, may not have attracted all the attention Vick did, or fussed about his contract like Jackson, even though he did have a monster season. But the Eagles still took notice of him and locked in their star running back for five years at $45 million a few months ago.

This season, though, McCoy won't have the pleasure of running off-tackle plays behind all-pro left tackle Jason Peters, who ruptured his Achilles tendon earlier this offseason. Demetress Bell will take Peters' place. And while Bell is solid, he may not be another Peters.

Plus, McCoy has his own performance he needs to improve. His pass protection last season was graded by coaches as subpar, and without a bona fide backup behind him, he'll be on the field in most passing situations.

The three other running backs on the Eagles roster have a combined 23 NFL carries, and all of those came from Dion Lewis, a rookie last season. Chris Polk and Bryce Brown, rookies this season, will also vie for playing time during camp.

McCoy is used to handling the heavy lifting, but that doesn't mean it's what the Eagles want from their franchise running back.

Last season, the Eagles gave only 54 handoffs to backs not named McCoy in the 15 games in which McCoy played.

While many NFL running backs can handle that load, it may be smarter for the Eagles to limit McCoy as much as they can early in the season to save his legs. In McCoy's last five games last season, he averaged 3.4 yards per carry. In his first 10 games, he averaged 5.4.

Back on that record-setting day in December, McCoy added another touchdown in the fourth quarter - his third of the game and 20th of the season. He bounced around a blitzing Bart Scott, stiff-armed another defender behind the line of scrimmage, then made it to the outside and scampered the remaining 33 yards untouched.

Now he's got to do that again this season.

Contact Chad Graff at cgraff@philly.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGraff.


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