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What Is McCoy's Right Touch Count?

Posted Jul 17, 2014

He is in the prime of a growing career, having established himself as one of the very best running backs in the NFL. All signs are pointing up for LeSean McCoy heading into 2014 ...

He is in the prime of a growing career, having established himself as one of the very best running backs in the NFL. All signs are pointing up for LeSean McCoy heading into 2014. What kind of role will McCoy have in the offense in the season ahead?

There is always this question in the league these days, in the era of multiple backs carrying the running game. How much is too much? What number of touches is just enough? Is there any way a team can put a star running back, in this case McCoy, on a weekly diet of touches and hope to stick to it, even if a game situation turns 180 degrees and requires a quick decision on using a back who can do so many things to win?

McCoy had 366 touches in 2013, 314 of them carries, and enjoyed a prolific season. He averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt and another 10.4 yards on his 52 receptions and McCoy’s 2,146 yards from scrimmage set a team record and led the NFL. Big-time season. Big-time player.

Best of all, McCoy’s numbers in the second half of the season suggested that he gained strength down the stretch. Four of his seven 100-yard-plus rushing games came in the final seven weeks. Of McCoy’s 19 career 100-yard games, four have happened in the month of December, and three of those games were played in 2013.  He was a beast in the fourth quarter of games last season, averaging a lusty 5.96 yards per carry, gaining a league-best 441 yards.

At the end of the year, even with those 366 touches, McCoy said he felt strong and healthy and ready for more.

This year? Does the touch count drop significantly? Will there be a concerted effort to spot McCoy here and there with a deep backfield that includes veteran Darren Sproles, who has been extremely productive both running and catching the football in his career, and emerging Chris Polk, who made nice strides in the offense when called upon last season?

Sproles is a new element to the offense, a “really, really talented running back,” said head coach Chip Kelly. The former Charger and Saint is also a dynamic receiving threat. He fits what the Eagles ask of their backs, and that is to be an all-purpose player who can inflict damage upon a defense in a variety of ways. The Eagles have an investment in Sproles and they certainly appreciate his skills, so how many ways can they work him into the offense? How many touches from the line of scrimmage will he have when the Eagles look to put Sproles in favorable matchups in space?

Kelly and the coaching staff did a marvelous job last season of maximizing talent and knowing the right buttons to push. They don’t want to exhaust McCoy, literally, but they also know how important he is to the offense. Maybe it works out as a week-to-week proposition. Maybe the presence of Sproles, who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry (1,334 yards on 238 carries) in the last four seasons - 5.3 yards (2010), 6.9 yards (2011), 5.1 yards (2012) and 4.2 yards (2013) – gives the coaches a chance to reduce McCoy’s touches, if even a little bit.

We know this: McCoy is in midst of the best years of his career and he’s been very durable (6 games missed in 5 seasons) and he’s been the go-to player in the Eagles' offense. Is there a way to get even more production from this remarkable talent? That’s a question to think about for this offense as the plans go into place for 2014.

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