Normally, the players most affected by a missing quarterback are the wide receivers. But Michael Vick isn’t your normal quarterback and that’s why the Eagles player who is the most eager to see him return is running back LeSean McCoy.
Vick has a dimension that most QBs don’t have, the ability to run like a running back. And that dimension opens holes for McCoy, one of the reasons he leads the NFL in rushing with 685 yards as the Eagles prepare for Sunday’s rematch against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
Vick is expected to play against the Giants after missing the last 2 ½ games with a hamstring injury, although Vick said on Thursday he wouldn’t know for sure until Friday, when he was scheduled to “run 100 yards as fast as I can and make sudden moves around the pocket.’’ Vick said he hadn’t really stretched out the sore hamstring and admitted he was a little apprehensive about today’s test – about which we know little because Friday practices are closed to the media — but he also said he’s optimistic it will be OK and he’ll get the green light for Sunday.
And nobody wants to see No. 7 take the field again more than No. 25. With Vick on the sideline, teams have stacked their defense to stop McCoy. He did manage to rush for 125 yards two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, but the Bucs are in disarray and everything the Eagles did against them worked.
But in the second half against the Giants — with Vick out and Nick Foles in — McCoy had a total of minus-4 yards, after rushing for 50 yards in the first half. The Dallas Cowboys took that same approach last week – they crowded the line of scrimmage and held McCoy to just 55 yards on 18 carries.
“If he’s healthy or not healthy, his presence on the field, you have to account for him if you’re a defense,” McCoy said of Vick. “I’ll just have to wait and see how they play it. … Sometimes they’ll get a spy on Mike. As a back, then you get a one-on-one matchup.”
And no running back in the NFL is better than McCoy in one-on-one matchups. Eagles coach Chip Kelly gave credit to the Giants players for shutting down McCoy in the second half in Week 5, but he also said Vick’s presence makes a difference in how teams play against McCoy.
“I know Mike ran for 79 yards in a quarter and a half [against the Giants],’’ Kelly said, “so I think you can devote what you want to do to try to take one guy away.’’
According to Giants defensive Justin Tuck, that was exactly what the Giants were trying to do in Week 5.
“We put everything in the basket to stop the run,’’ Tuck said. “It’s something we were dedicated to.’’
The Giants also watched film of the Cowboys game, so they’ll try to once again shut down McCoy and see if Vick’s hamstring is up to the challenge. McCoy also took responsibility for his below-par performance against the Cowboys, saying it was his worst game since his rookie season in 2009.
“I just wasn’t myself,” McCoy said. “I felt like with a game like this, where my team needed me and depended on me, I didn’t show up. I started doing too many individual-type of plays, not really going with the plays and just doing my own thing. “I just was a little frustrated,’’ he added. “I just wasn’t making the plays I usually make. And they were stopping us. We were going three-and-out, and things weren’t going our way.’’
But even though the Giants will try to duplicate their strategy on Sunday, McCoy said the Eagles will stay committed to the running game. “You can’t just give in because they’re stopping the run,’’ he said. “There are things I can do to be more successful in the run game. … I’ll bounce back this week, for sure.”