Why Eagles need LeSean McCoy back on field

Posted: December 13, 2012

If LeSean McCoy is concussion-free and cleared to play, I absolutely want to see him in the remaining games of this lost season.

There's more to be gained by seeing how the Eagles' starting running back performs with potential quarterback of the future Nick Foles than by being overly cautious and sitting him for the rest of the season.

McCoy is a football player and, if they are healthy, football players play. That shouldn't change depending on whether the team's record is 4-9 or 9-4.

I understand the argument that it is not worth risking further injury to a vital part of your future in meaningless games during the closing parts of a losing season.

I'm not surprised that in an Inquirer poll Tuesday, 77 percent of more than 1,800 respondents opposed letting McCoy return this season at the risk of a recurrence.

I don't agree.

If McCoy is suddenly more vulnerable to concussions, his chance of getting another next season won't be lessened because he doesn't play anymore this season.

This is different from Eagles coach Andy Reid putting McCoy out there in the closing minutes of a blowout loss to Washington, which resulted in McCoy getting a concussion in the first place.

Keeping McCoy out in that situation would have been sound policy because there was nothing positive to be gained by having him at the time.

The only thing that could happen was something bad, like McCoy getting hurt and then having to sit out the next four games.

But there are positives to be gained from McCoy playing again this season, and frankly, it has as much to do with Foles as anything.

If Foles is going to be the starting quarterback for this team next season, McCoy is going to be the best weapon he will have in his arsenal.

Rookie Bryce Brown has done a good job in McCoy's absence and has probably earned consideration for a bigger role moving ahead, but McCoy is the unquestioned feature back of this franchise.

On Tuesday, McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick, who also is recovering from a concussion, returned to practice. It was only for a light session with the scout team.

Both were ruled out for Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lincoln Financial Field, but their participation in practice could be a sign that both could be cleared to return soon.

Again, I want to see how Foles can operate this offense when he has a player like McCoy in the backfield with him.

Ideally, you'd like to see Foles perform with McCoy, tight end Brent Celek, who is also out against Cincinnati because of a concussion, injured receiver DeSean Jackson, a healthy offensive line and any other players you see moving to the future with.

The thing that is most important over these final three games is that the Eagles get as much information as they can to evaluate whether Foles is the quarterback you want to lead this franchise.

The best way to do that is for Foles to have as many of the key players in this offense available to him for as many games possible.

It is too critical a juncture in the Eagles' history for management to have to rely on grading Foles on a curve.

There are franchise-altering decisions that will have to be made when this most notorious of seasons ends on Dec. 30.

Aside from Reid's replacement, the most important decision to be made is whether Foles is the right quarterback.

Foles was a third-round draft pick, so the Eagles weren't just taking a flier that he might be a quarterback who could develop at some point down the road.

No, he was not a first-rounder, but if you use the 88th overall pick on a quarterback, he's a guy you believe is going to be in the mix for taking the reins in the future.

Foles has shown marked improvement in each game since his disastrous first start against Washington on Nov. 18. On Sunday, he led the Eagles to their first victory since Sept. 30 and looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback prospect by passing for 381 yards and two touchdowns against Tampa Bay.

The Eagles are going to be rewarded for their ineptness with a high pick in the 2013 draft. It is imperative that they find out if quarterback is a position that they can eliminate from their consideration list.

How Foles finishes out the season will be a big step in determining that. You want him out there with the best that the Eagles have to offer. That's why McCoy should play again if he is cleared to do so.

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