The Unreal McCoy

Posted: August 15, 2014

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Chip Kelly was asked yesterday about LeSean McCoy's stated goal of 2,000 rushing yards this season.

"I don't care. I really don't care," the Eagles' coach said. "And he knows that, and I told him that."

Left guard Evan Mathis, on the same subject: "Isn't that adorable? I really don't care."

Right guard Todd Herremans, after a reporter reminded him of McCoy's statements and tweets about getting to 2,000, and referenced Kelly's response: "Oh, yeah. I don't really care either."

This isn't a looming crisis for the Eagles, because McCoy understands and accepts why his quest - at least partly a marketing ploy in his role as a spokesman for Bounce dryer sheets for men - is not a priority for the rest of the team. The Eagles' focus is never on individual achievements.

And part of what makes McCoy different from, oh, say, some other player who might have been banished from Kelly's Eagles, is that while Shady hungers for status and recognition as a top-tier star, he is able to channel his ego in a positive way. If he spends the offseason working relentlessly to drop a few pounds and get quicker, as he did after leading the league in rushing last season, that ultimately benefits the Eagles.

If he wants to try to run for 2,000 yards, something only seven players have done in the history of the NFL, this is hardly a problem for anyone, as long as McCoy isn't going to pout or sulk if he doesn't get there, given that the Eagles have other weapons and are trying to win the Super Bowl. (Interesting note: Of those seven 2,000-yard rushers, only Denver's Terrell Davis, in 1998, won it all in his 2k year.)

"A lot of it is the Bounce promotion," McCoy said yesterday, after a soggy joint practice with the Patriots on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. Bounce has pledged to donate $10 per McCoy rushing yard to McCoy's "Shades of Greatness" charity, which benefits ALS. "I have fun with it, man. I'm blessed to be with the type of team, type of scheme like this to get the ball, to catch and run. I'm surrounded by good players like [Nick] Foles, [Jeremy] Maclin and [Darren] Sproles. The ball's going to be spread around a lot, so 2,000 is going to be tough.

"I just have fun with it. I like the media and all the fans, they really react to it, the fantasy people, but the biggest thing is winning. That's the main goal. Last year I was successful and productive [breaking the team single-season rushing record with 1,607 yards], and we still were winning."

At the same time, McCoy, entering his sixth season at age 26, likes setting tangible goals, beyond just "winning." Last year his goals were to gain more than 2,000 all-purpose yards, and for the Eagles to win the NFC East. Both goals were achieved. McCoy said he hasn't settled on exactly what he expects to accomplish this season, Bounce promotion notwithstanding.

"I really try to exceed the limitations that I have . . . can I go past that? How good could this team be? Things that I could help the team do to be better," he said.

"I didn't play to my potential out there today. Small things. Controlling the line of scrimmage. Sometimes you rely too much on God-given abilities instead of just doing the little things - reading my keys. Small things that you get away with, because you've got that natural talent . . . Pass-pro. Today I felt like I was 2-for-4 [as a pass blocker]. Fifty percent's not good enough.

"There's different things I can get better at . . . A lot of players, they hide it, because they get to a certain level where they feel like they're so good. I don't hide it. If I have a bad game, I'll sit here and tell you guys I had a bad game. That's something I'm trying to do better at - I want to be a leader, all the time, not just on Sundays."

In this quest, McCoy and Kelly think alike.

"He can do everything better," Kelly said, when asked what McCoy can improve upon. "He can do a better job in pass protection, he can do a better job in short-yardage situations, he can do a better job in eliminating negative plays where maybe the hole's not exactly there, but second-and-9's better than second-and-14, where all of a sudden, every play he's trying to run has to be a home run.

"I think we're seeing that. There's a lot more patience in him, in terms of understanding that you have to pick and choose, when he has those God-given gifts, where he can make people miss, but sometimes it can put us in a negative situation on second down . . . His conditioning has really upgraded from where it was a year ago, so you can kind of see that on the practice field."

Kelly said the addition of Sproles is helping McCoy learn more about route-running, making McCoy "a better route-runner right now" than he was a year ago, when McCoy caught 52 passes for 539 yards.

"The great thing about him is that he wants to be that," Kelly said. "I don't think he's complacent or happy in terms of where he is. Hopefully, he thinks that last year was just him scratching the surface in terms of what his potential can be."

Here, you can see Kelly's college background. On Andy Reid's Eagles, proven veterans were given leeway, trusted to know how they needed to prepare. Kelly cedes less ground.

"Coach pushes me to the max, more than any coach I've ever been around," McCoy said. "Coach Reid, he pushed me hard, but once I kind of got to a point - he lets the veterans go a little bit. But Chip is constantly on me. And it's all positive; he never yells, never says anything negative, always trying to get me to go. And I like it like that, I do. I like my coach to tell me good and bad."

Herremans said McCoy's teammates never doubt his drive or his sincerity.

"I think he's got really good work ethic, which some people might not see from a distance," Herremans said. "He wants to be the best."

Herremans added that of course he would enjoy being part of a 2,000-yard McCoy rushing effort, if it furthered the team's success. Mathis said something similar, as did Kelly.

McCoy finished last season with 314 carries, by far a career high. Adding veteran back Sproles to the mix makes it unlikely he will exceed that. Last season, McCoy averaged 5.1 yards per carry. If he does that again in 2014, he will need 393 carries to gain 2,000 yards. That would be almost 25 carries per game.

"Math was not my specialty," McCoy joked, when some of those numbers were relayed to him. "If I get it, it's good. If I don't, I don't. That's not my biggest concern."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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