McCoy's backups glad to be part of the Eagles' supporting cast

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Bryce Brown, on his way to the end zone against the Bears, is one of the Eagles' solid backups at running back.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Bryce Brown, on his way to the end zone against the Bears, is one of the Eagles' solid backups at running back.
Posted: December 30, 2013

LESEAN MCCOY is unquestionably "the man" in Philadelphia. If it were not for the remarkable season Peyton Manning is having in Denver, McCoy would have a great chance of being named the NFL's MVP.

But every now and then, even the league's leading rusher needs a rest, which has helped the Eagles earn a reputation for their three-headed rushing attack.

Behind McCoy stands backup running back Bryce Brown, who, after a strong rookie season, has struggled with a roller-coaster 2013 season. In addition to Brown, second-year back Chris Polk has earned increased playing time in his second season in Philadelphia, with impressive numbers to flash for a third-string back.

With three different running backs come three different styles. Whenever McCoy is off the field, opposing defenses will have a different element to focus on, whether it is Brown or Polk carrying the ball.

"I think we are all very different, but we all complement each other very well," Brown said. "It really doesn't matter who is in there, because we can all make plays when given the opportunity, and it's a blessing having all three of us on the same team."

"What one does, the other doesn't," Polk said. "LeSean can shake you, Bryce will run right past you, and I will get the tough yards. We all complement each other, and I don't think there is a better group out there in the NFL."

As McCoy approaches the franchise record for rushing yards in a season, the 5-year veteran said he thinks that having the young running backs behind him has helped to create a special team with its unique depth at the position.

"I think it just makes the offense better, because it's more depth that you have," McCoy said. "I think some special teams have more depth where if a guy goes down, a guy can step in and do well enough to keep the offense going."

Before Sunday's matchup with the Bears, Brown had entered the game averaging only 2.9 yards per carry - third worst in the NFL among non-quarterbacks. Despite his struggles, coach Chip Kelly stuck with him as McCoy's immediate backup.

"That's not how we look at it, as who's 2, who's 3, it's just depending on what we're doing," Kelly said. "But the one thing we know about Bryce, he's a really good downhill runner. I think he's just starting to hit his stride, starting to figure out kind of what we're doing, but it's been really about him and how hard he's worked."

"And I think the fact that Chris is there, we have competition at that position, and I think they both bring the best out of each other."

At the completion of Sunday night's 54-11 beatdown of the Bears, the Eagles had rushed for a total of 289 yards. McCoy led the way with 18 carries, 133 yards and two touchdowns, while Brown enjoyed his best game of the season by rushing for 115 yards and one touchdown on only nine carries, increasing his yards per carry from 2.9 to 4.2.

Hoping to earn a greater role as his career progresses, Brown said he is taking advantages of the reps he is given now, as they are tough to come by behind McCoy, who has averaged more than 19 carries this season. Last weekend, Brown tied his season high for carries, with nine, last getting that many attempts on Sept. 9 against Washington.

"The amount of reps isn't really in our hands, because it is really about how the coaches feel and we try to take advantage of the reps that we do receive," Brown said.

Brown and Polk alike have enjoyed their timely success this season, thanks in part to the blocking from the offensive line, tight ends and receivers, but the two credit their predecessor most for their success this season.

"It's all about having a great leader in front of me," Brown said. "When you have a great leader like LeSean and having a great example, it helps me a whole lot just seeing how he executes. Just his confidence and ability to make plays is the helpful. One thing I try to implement is the confidence. I feel that when he touches the field, he believes he is the best player out there, and I think it shows."

Polk said: "He is one of the best running backs in this league, and having someone like that to learn from to see how he takes care of his body, things on and off the field, how to be patient, pick up the blocks, and you really become a student of the game. We really couldn't ask for a better role model."

According to Polk, who played his best game on Dec. 8 against Detroit in the Snow Bowl, having this type of rushing attack is no surprise to anybody within the organization. While Polk is far behind statistically, with 11 rushes for 98 yards, the second-year back from Washington has scored three touchdowns, while averaging 8.9 yards per carry this season.

"This is the confidence we knew had coming into the season, and it's really showing now," Polk said. "We knew what kind of running backs we had, and I don't think there is a better or deeper group of running backs in the league. That's just a testament to the type of players that we have here."

For the time being, Brown and Polk will continue to watch from the sideline as McCoy gets most of the carries, but when they do receive their respected opportunities, both agreed they will make the most out of them.

By learning from one of the best running backs in the NFL today, Polk said he thinks it is important to stay true to your own running style, while also learning what you can do to improve that style.

"The most important thing about a running back is to stay true to your own identity," Polk said. "I'm not going to go out there and try to run like [McCoy], and Bryce wouldn't do it, either. I think for both of us, we try to take some of the stuff that we learn from him and try to emulate it into our own styles."


On Twitter: @JohnMurrow12

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