Just a few months ago, LeSean McCoy was regarded as one of the most popular men in football. McCoy was coming off a prolific season, having encumbered the weight of the offense en route to a 10-6 record this past season. McCoy was also in the running for the Madden NFL 15 cover, losing out to Richard Sherman. Positive vibes spewed from radios regarding McCoy’s “leaner” self.
Thus far, Shady has been brought out of the shadows. McCoy is averaging a pedestrian 2.9 yards per carry, with his longest gain being 21 yards. The Pro Bowl running back has seen the holes of 2013 vanish this season, both because of defensive priority and offensive line injuries. Though McCoy amassed solid rushing totals in weeks one and two, the week three Jason Kelce injury seemed to tighten the screws on McCoy’s production.
What can the coaches do to ameliorate the wounded running game?
First, Kelly needs to rely more on McCoy as a receiver. McCoy, who recorded 52 catches last season, was held to zero against Washington. This is also because of the lack of line depth: McCoy is being left in as a pass blocker while Daren Sproles, the weaker blocker, runs pass routes. Sproles has proven to at least be a serviceable blocker, meaning the Eagles could alternate blocking duties between the backs.
Additionally, The Eagles need to run more formations with a Brent Celek in the backfield. Last year, Celek lined up behind the quarterback at times to serve as a lead blocker for McCoy. On both run and pass downs, Celek should play this lead role to allow McCoy running lanes and liberty to run pass patterns.
Ironically, Andy Reid’s offensive system—though it rarely relied on the run—opened up running lanes beautifully. Reid would script his first fifteen plays with a heavy dose of passing, often taking multiple deep chances early in games. Even if these passes weren’t completed, the defense was forced to loosen up and play its defensive backs further off the ball. As a result, less men were in position to play the run, which gave backs freedom to break through the first wave of defenders.
With the return of speedster Josh Huff, Kelly could easily try and send Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, or Huff on long pass patterns, and implant the threat of the bomb into the defense’s mind. Since San Francisco’s secondary is rather suspect, the Eagles should find success throwing the ball early, Traffic will part for the running backs as a result of the consistent ariel success, and McCoy and Sproles will be let loose. Earlier this week, McCoy himself noted “I’d be shocked if they play eight in the box.”
The Eagles’ opponents have forced them to succeed without their strength. The Eagle offense simply needs to do the same thing: by attacking the Niners—and any future opponent Kelly’s offense faces—where they are weak, and forcing them to succeed without their strength. The heavily loaded armory of weapons should be able to wreak havoc.
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