Eagles' McCoy a shade lighter

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER LeSean McCoy: 'I looked at all my old film and saw how much quicker I was when I was 209, 210.'
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER LeSean McCoy: 'I looked at all my old film and saw how much quicker I was when I was 209, 210.'
Posted: August 01, 2014

LeSEAN McCOY reported to training camp last week lean and mean and carrying 5 fewer pounds than his 2013 playing weight.

Five pounds off an elephant or a nose tackle or Toronto mayor Rob Ford is no big deal.

Five pounds off a running back who won the NFL rushing title last season, though, is a slightly bigger deal.

McCoy played last season at 215 pounds. It didn't seem to hold him back. He ran away with the league rushing crown, beating runner-up Matt Forte by 268 yards (1,607 to 1,339).

He also finished first in yards from scrimmage (2,146), first in rushing attempts (314) and first in touches (366).

Some might suggest that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But the 26-year-old McCoy, who is entering his sixth NFL season and is closing in on 1,500 career touches, felt dropping a few pounds would make him quicker and more elusive and better able to handle another 300-plus carry workload. It might even help extend his career.

"The good thing about this offense going into my second year in it is I know what to expect," McCoy said after training-camp practice at NovaCare. "I know what coach [Chip] Kelly wants. I know it's tons of running.

"Especially with my role. Even with [the addition of Darren] Sproles. There's so many more things we're doing now with him than expected. So I have to be in shape."

With a quarterback who led the league in almost every pertinent passing category last season and the offseason acquisition of Sproles, who caught 232 passes with the Saints the last three seasons, and the return to health of Jeremy Maclin, and the drafting of wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, much of the offseason and early-training camp focus has been on the Eagles' passing game.

But the Eagles had the fourth-most rushing attempts (500) in the league last season, behind only Buffalo (546), Seattle (509) and San Francisco (505). They ran the ball 47.4 percent of the time, which was the sixth-highest rate in the league.

So, while Sproles' arrival might have an impact on McCoy's pass-catching total - he had 52 receptions last season - there's a pretty good chance he's looking at another season with 300-plus carries.

"Last year, even with the year I had, it was based more on the guys up front blocking well and just going on God-given talent," McCoy said. "I feel at a lighter weight I'll be so much more effective.

"I looked at all my old film and saw how much quicker I was when I was 209, 210. I mean, there was a big difference. And I'm feeling that way again. I'm back at 209, 210. I've been working hard and watching the things I eat. I feel good. I feel a lot quicker. I'm making those plays again. Beating guys."

McCoy doesn't want a repeat of what happened 2 years ago. After rushing for 1,309 yards and a league-best 17 touchdowns in 2011, he wasn't nearly as effective the following season. He missed four games with a concussion and finished with just 840 yards. His rushing average fell from 4.8 to 4.2 and his rushing touchdowns from 17 to two.

"The thing is, I had a really, really good year [in 2011]. Then the next year, I would have had another great year, but I got hurt. I'm trying to capitalize off [last year]. I had a real dominant year, and now I want to come back with another one. I've got the teammates, and most importantly, the linemen, to do it. So I'm just trying to stay in shape, stay lean, stay aggressive."

It's going to be interesting to see what, if any, impact the 31-year-old Sproles will have on McCoy's rushing workload.

Sproles wasn't used much as a ball-carrier in New Orleans. He had just 188 rushing attempts in three seasons with the Saints. Wasn't used much as a runner in five seasons with San Diego before that, either. He has just 437 career rushing attempts in 122 games.

But Kelly and his staff are convinced the 5-6, 190-pounder can be a very effective runner in the Eagles' offense.

"You can't see the guy," said Rick Minter, who coaches the Eagles' inside linebackers. "He's diminutive in size, but thick and strong and violent.

"I think this offense is going to be a good fit for him just as a runner, let alone as a receiver, which is what he's known for as far as being the hard matchup. As a runner, you start running those plays Chip runs and you start looking back there behind that offensive line, you don't even see the guy. Then, all of a sudden, boom, he's squirting out the back door with the ball."

Running-backs coach Duce Staley said last season that he didn't want McCoy carrying the ball 300-plus times. But it's tough not to give him the ball when you're fighting for a playoff spot and he's running as well as he was last season. He rushed for 130-plus yards in three of the Eagles' last four regular-season games, including that epic 29-carry, 217-yard, two-touchdown performance in the snow in the 34-20, Week 14 win over Detroit.

"My thing is, I play with leverage," McCoy said. "Certain guys are different. A guy like [Seattle's] Marshawn Lynch, his broken tackles are more [the result of him] running through a guy. Mine is getting them off-balance and going through an arm tackle, going through a shoulder, those types of things. Get them going one way and try to hit the other side."

McCoy figures his leverage is going to be even better now that he has shed those 5 pounds.

"I feel like I'm 23 years old," he said. "I've been working hard and have put a lot into this game and into my preparation."

Email: pdomo@aol.com

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