Shady No. 5 in NFL Top 100, but more vital than Nick?

Posted: July 11, 2014

IT'S ONE OF THOSE great summer beach-chair debates, to be pondered and argued and even dreaded a bit as you stuff a cold drink into a coozie and take your swings at the greenheads.

LeSean McCoy or Nick Foles? Who's more valuable to the Eagles right now?

That was the question posed in a Philly Sports Talk poll earlier this week, and while the voting is still open, Shady leads Foles by 6 percent as I sit down to write this.

That's closer than their respective finish in the NFL Network's Top 100 list, which places Foles 70th and Shady fifth in the league. And Foles is listed as a 40-1 shot to win the MVP award this season, while McCoy's price is 25-1.

But the question is not who is a better player or who has the better statistics. It is who is more valuable in the Eagles' pursuit of a playoff spot and the Super Bowl.

I get and share the Shady love, especially since his body of work extends beyond the one-two punch the pair provided for the Eagles last season. While Foles was trying to emerge from backup status over the two previous seasons, McCoy's numbers were placing him on that Top 100 list: 18th in 2012 and 45th in 2013.

There is a good argument, one that he has made, that he is the best running back in the NFL. With the exception of his injury-interrupted 2012 season, McCoy's numbers have increased each year he has been in the league. He has been a workhorse at times, and he has proved to be durable.

Can the Eagles survive and even reach the playoffs without him? I believe the answer is yes, although I'm in no hurry to be proved right or wrong. But I think there's enough there for Kelly's offense to function effectively without him. And if we learned nothing else about Kelly's coaching chops last season, it is that he is far from a one-trick pony.

That said, a few things were easy to glean from this spring's OTA and minicamp. First was how much more at ease and proficient this year's team is with Kelly's methodology. Among the players who were involved last season, there were fewer confused looks, less explanation needed.

Second was how much more at ease and proficient Foles was from a year ago, and what a dropoff it was when any of his backups ran the plays. The Eagles are undoubtedly Nick Foles' team right from the start this year, and while nobody should expect the same 27-2 touchdown-to-interception rate of a season ago, it is reasonable to expect him to execute better at times due to familiarity.

Take that out of the equation though, and watch out. Mark Sanchez is already considered to be his backup, an indication perhaps of Matt Barkley's future as an Eagle. A year ago, Barkley was brashly declaring himself in the running for the starter's job for which Foles and Michael Vick were competing.

With Vick gone, you would think Barkley would have at least an early advantage due to a season's worth of familiarity with Kelly. But that's not how it has looked so far.

And that's not a good thing. Unless you believe the problems Sanchez experienced in New York were due more to system and personnel than to his performance.

Me? I think the dropoff from starting quarterback to backup this coming season looks far precipitous than it did in Kelly's first season at the helm.

Foles can survive without Shady. It wouldn't be easy, or as productive, but the Eagles signed Darren Sproles in the offseason and Chris Polk has shown some promise and there are cases of NFL teams surviving and advancing with running backs who slip your mind.

Not sure who Tom Brady will be handing off to next season. Or Drew Brees. Not saying Foles is either player (although he went toe-to-toe with Brees in last year's playoff game), but he might have more weapons at his disposal this season than either player even without Shady.

Anyway, I don't really want to find out if I'm right, and I'm pretty sure none of you does either. But if I'm picking my poison as I'm stuffing my coozie, the vote here is for Foles as the more indispensible of the two.


Email: donnels@phillynews.com

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|