PHILADELPHIA – It was early Tuesday morning, the players’ day off, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was at the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice facility watching video tape of that week’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. He was there with his quarterbacks and their focus was the complicated blitzing schemes of the Cowboys.
As Mornhinweg and his quarterbacks sat there, they were surprised to see the door to the meeting room open and running back LeSean McCoy walk through it, notebook in hand.
“He wanted to pop in and get a head start,’’ Mornhinweg said.
And when asked if it was normal for a running back to pop in for a quarterbacks meeting on his day off, Mornhinweg, a veteran coach of 17 years in the NFL, smiled and said “Well, it’s the first time it’s ever happened for me.”
McCoy has surprised a lot of people by becoming one of the top running backs in the league. He was good last season, rushing for 1,080 yards, and he’s been even better this year. McCoy is second in the league in rushing after torching Dallas for 185 yards on Sunday night in front of a national television audience, a performance that earned him NFC offensive player of the week honors. He’s rushed for 754 yards this season (Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson has 798) and McCoy has the highest average per rush (5.6 yards) of any running back with at least 60 carries.
If he maintains that pace, he’ll finish with 1,723 yards and easily beat the Eagles single-season rushing record of 1,512, set my Wilbert Montgomery in 1979. And McCoy is doing it behind a rebuilt offensive line that includes two rookies.
“Right now, he’s playing as well as any running back there is,’’ Eagles coach Andy Reid said.
Said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick: “He’s a dynamic player. And he’s by far one of the best in this league.’’
A player from another team used that same word – “dynamic’’ – to describe McCoy, and Cowboys linebacker Keith Brookings had a close look at the elusive Eagle during Sunday night’s blowout.
“He’s a very good runner and if you get out of position, McCoy can expose you very quickly,’’ Brookings said. “He’s a very dynamic player. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Nobody knew what to expect when the Eagles drafted McCoy in the second round out of Pittsburgh in 2009. McCoy had a productive career at Pitt, but he wasn’t the biggest guy in the world and he didn’t the biggest name in the draft. Besides, the Eagles already had a Pro Bowl player at the position in Brian Westbrook.
But Westbrook was getting older and battling injuries and he became less productive. A running back usually doesn’t last long in the NFL – as Indiana Jones once said, it’s not the years, it’s the mileage – and Westbrook had lost whatever it was that made him special.
So, McCoy came in as a rookie and got a lot of playing time and even started four games when Westbrook was injured. And in 2010, when the Eagles decided that the Westbrook era was over, they had his replacement ready.
“I learned a lot from Brian and I’m grateful that he took the time to teach me things,’’ McCoy said. “He taught me how to be an NFL player, on and off the field.”
What he’s done on the field this season has allowed the Eagles to change their pass-happy approach. Throughout Reid’s 13-year reign, the Eagles have passed the ball about 65 percent of the time. This year, it’s about 53 percent and in the last two games the Eagles have actually run the ball more than they’ve thrown it, 76-60.
And McCoy has carried the load – Eagles running backs have a total of 160 carries this season and McCoy has 135 of them. He had 28 carries for 126 yards against the Redskins and a career-high 30 carries for 185 yards against the Cowboys.
“Any running back wants the ball in his hands, and I’m no different,’’ McCoy said. “I’m confident in my ability to make plays and I know I can help this team win games when I do. I’m definitely not lacking in confidence.
“At the same time, I realize that we have a lot of weapons on this team and we need to get the ball in their hands, too. And that way, we all feed off each other.”
That includes sitting in each other’s classes. Reid, of course, was pleased when he heard McCoy had stopped by the office on his day off, but he wasn’t surprised. He knows McCoy has come a long way since he arrived for his first training camp a little out of shape and a little in awe.
“LeSean is maturing,’’ Reid said. “He’s going through that maturing process you go through the longer you’re in the league and the more opportunities you have to play. Now he’s got a smile on his face when he comes to work. He’s got this phenomenal energy and he loves to play the game and he wants to be the best.’’