As the Eagles regroup following two straight losses and with a tough road game ahead in Denver, LeSean McCoy is the superstar factor in an offense looking for more tempo, more go-go-go and, most important, more points.
Barring any setbacks, McCoy will pass Randall Cunningham and Duce Staley and end the 2013 season with the fourth-most rushing yards in Eagles history, and will then be within 2,000 yards of Wilbert Montgomery's total of 6,538 yards on the ground. McCoy, who has 14 100-yard rushing games in his four-plus-year career, has 4,261 career yards at the moment, and he's rising with a bullet.
It's fair to say that McCoy is one of only a very small handful of premier running backs in the league, so as the Eagles formulate their gameplan for Denver, and then for the Giants after that, and for Tampa Bay the following week, McCoy has to be the central piece of the plan.
Defenses know this, of course, and they seem to feel that the damage McCoy can do is significant enough to do whatever is necessary to minimize his impact. Clearly, the Eagles need to find multiple options. They have gotten maximum mileage from DeSean Jackson, who is off to a terrific start. Jason Avant has been productive. Quarterback Michael Vick has moved the football around otherwise to keep defenses honest.
But it all starts with McCoy, and the Eagles are going to have to become creative with how they get McCoy the football. He tore the Redskins apart for 184 yards in Week 1, and then came back and gashed San Diego in Week 2 in the passing game. Last Thursday, McCoy had 20 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Chiefs, shrugging off a scary-looking knee injury late in the first half.
How are upcoming defenses going to account for McCoy, who has created as much of his own yardage this season as he has run through gaping holes? Do teams stack the bow and limit his damage in the running game? Do they man him up in the passing game and take away the screen danger? Do they blitz and force McCoy to stay in and protect Vick as a pass blocker?
The offense ups and downs from Thursday night linger, and they were no doubt a focus of the coaching staff's weekend of self analysis. Five turnovers crushed the cause against Kansas City after two games of very solid, extremely explosive football highlighted by big points. Kansas City won the battle at the line of scrimmage, played good man-to-man defense in the passing game and kept an early eye on McCoy as the visitors built up a lead.
Head coach Chip Kelly wants more tempo, more speed and better execution. He's a demanding head coach. He knows offense. He knows winning. Sitting at 1-2 after the opening-night win at Washington isn't sitting particularly well with Kelly at the moment, so he has some adjustments to make.
One constant in the offense is McCoy, naturally, who in his fifth Eagles season is as versatile as was Brian Westbrook, as durable as was Duce Staley and as elusive as Wilbert Montgomery. McCoy has quickly worked his way into the top shelf of backs here as he chases down Montgomery's Eagles numbers.
None of that record-book stuff enters McCoy's mind right now. He's a leader on a young team trying to get back on the winning track, and we all know that for the Eagles to play their best offensively, McCoy has to be a factor.
He has to be *the *factor, whether McCoy is carrying the football or carrying defenders away from the action and opening opportunities for others to succeed.
The Eagles have the best running back in the NFL playing right now, so while it doesn't mean he needs 25 carries each week, McCoy has to be involved. Heavily so. McCoy must be a trusted release target for Michael Vick should the quarterback need a checkdown. McCoy must be the one to move the sticks on third-and-short plays.
The Eagles are at an important early point in their season after two consecutive defeats. They know the NFC East is wide open, with only Dallas (2-1) on the plus side of .500 through three weeks. There is some time to fix what is ailing each team, the Eagles included. As the Eagles prepare to play their third straight game against an AFC West team in this bizarre schedule, the coaching staff knows who its bread-and-butter player is.
And LeSean McCoy is as good as it gets in this league. He is the focal point of an offense that is really close to being really good. And he needs to be called upon each week to provide the big plays, the big yards and the big moments. The great ones deserve this kind of spotlight, and McCoy is a great one.