Birds’ McCoy focused on the main goal
PHILADELPHIA — Less is more.
That’s the new mantra of Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the Eagles into their season opener Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m., Channel 3, WIP 94.1-FM).
McCoy survived the purge sending DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant packing. He’s the last remnant of the Andy Reid be-yourself star culture.
It’s not been easy for McCoy, who wants to defend his NFL rushing title, to balance his competitive instincts with the egoless philosophy of head coach Chip Kelly. With Kelly there is no “I” in team.
On the eve of the opener McCoy again opened eyes with what he said. Consider it a snapshot of what’s to come for the Eagles offense quarterbacked by Nick Foles.
First, the same McCoy who peeved Kelly in proclaiming himself the best all-around running back in the league, the same young man who announced that rushing for 2,000 yards was within reach, shared a chat he had with the boss.
“Something me and coach always talk about,” McCoy said, “is how you be the best is you help these guys to win games, to win championships. That’s the main goal.”
Minutes later the reined-in McCoy, not the serious workhorse who led the league with 314 carries, 1,607 rushing yards and 2,146 yards from scrimmage last year, spoke about his evolving role.
Though Jackson is gone, wide receiver Riley Cooper is back, Jeremy Maclin is healthy after knee surgery, Zach Ertz looks like he’s sprouting into a Jimmy Graham type of tight end and running back Darren Sproles is on the scene after falling into disuse in New Orleans. How in the world can Foles, who led the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating and a 9.12 yards
per pass attempt, keep all of them happy?
“I think I’ll be the guy with most of the load with the offense. but I don’t think that 300 plus-plus carries is really needed,” McCoy said. “Sure, if the game is tight and we need to ride me, yeah, I’m the guy for it. But I think with just the mix with Sproles doing different things … Sometimes a 65-yard carry could be the same as a 65-yard route with Sproles. I’m learning that it doesn’t take a lot of reps or a lot of touches to be more productive or get what you want done. You can do it with less.”
McCoy caught 52 passes for 539 yards last year, a 10.4-yard average per grab that topped all running backs. He and Sproles are made to order for the deadly wheel routes Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur call.
Additionally, the Eagles’ offensive line returns almost intact, the exception Allen Barbre starting at right tackle in place of Lane Johnson, suspended the first four games for using PEDs.
It always starts up front for the Eagles. Among other leaders on the veteran group is guard Evan Mathis, who lines up to fellow All-Pro tackle Jason Peters. Mathis likes the way McCoy is squaring his quest for 2,000 rushing yards with winning.
“It’s good for him to have that kind of goal,” Mathis said. “That’s obviously raising the bar very high. If he gets it, that’s phenomenal. But it’s not going to change the way we approach the game and the way we block. We’ll do our best to get him there. And I would assume that if you’re getting that kind of yardage it should translate to some form of success. So it’s good in that aspect. But like I said, as far as goals go, it’s good to have those, but it’s nowhere near the highest we have.”
Not much has been said about the Jaguars, and for good reason. Head coach Gus Bradley, in his second year, still doesn’t have the guys who suit his style.
Veteran quarterback Chad Henne is 5-14 as the starter for the Jaguars. Toby Gerhart has been promoted from Adrian Peterson substitute to featured back for the Jags, replacing Maurice JonesDrew.
The wide receiver corps is topped by rookie second-round picks Marqise Lee (USC) and Allen Robinson (Penn State). Tight end Marcedes Lewis can’t do it alone. Before it’s all said and done Sunday, look for Jags rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to play.
The Jaguars have a solid front-seven defensively, one anchored by linebacker Paul Posluszny and end Chris Clemons, but not a lot more.
The Eagles may even have the edge in the kicking game with rookie Cody Parkey. Jaguars counterpart Josh Scobee is coming off a quad injury.
Defensively the Eagles are eager to unveil the new and improved pass rush they’ve felt has been under wraps in the preseason.
“From this point on every team will be able to see what we are on every down,” veteran cornerback Cary Williams said. “So we want to establish a fearsome defense. We want to establish 11 guys flying down to the ball. We want to see guys hitting people. We want to see guys being physical. We want to see guys not taking any junk. You definitely don’t want to be a pushover defense. Everyone is going to watch and be able to see what our identity is and who we are. If we want to instill fear in any of our opponents or anybody we come into contact with then it starts Sunday.”