LeSean McCoy shouldered the bulk of the workload in training camp and the preseason while Brian Westbrook worked his way back from ankle surgery. But with Westbrook ready to go Sunday in Carolina, McCoy must wait patiently for his opportunities.
"I would like to think I can take some pressure off No. 36," McCoy said. "I would like to go out there and kind of help him out if he's tired or if he needs a break."
McCoy is a shifty running back with a great feel for when to break the run outside, along with a knack for finding the end zone. In camp he displayed good quickness and an ability to block. McCoy carried that over into the preseason opener, gaining 55 rushing yards on 10 carries and adding 12 more yards on a pair of receptions against New England.
McCoy finished the preseason with 97 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. He also added 60 yards receiving. Numbers aside, he's earned some high praise from his Pro Bowl mentor.
"You can tell that he has the makings of a very good football player," Westbrook said of McCoy. "He's worked very hard in training camp, he's taken a lot of reps and he's come a long way from mini-camp to now."
When Westbrook elected to have ankle surgery back in June, there was speculation that the team might add another veteran back to the roster. Instead, McCoy became the focus and now appears ready to contribute in Week 1.
"It happened so fast," McCoy said. "I can remember in camp working hard as a team trying to learn everything ... and now you're actually here, a couple days until the big show. I think the preparation paid off and I'm ready to go in there and perform."
At this point, it's not clear just how many touches McCoy could see Sunday in Carolina, or any game this season for that matter.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said McCoy's role could be much like former Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter.
"You have to see how the thing works its way out," Mornhinweg said. "I have great confidence in Brian to play the whole game. If you get into a situation there and he's gassed just a little bit, then LeSean will play a little bit more."
Mornhinweg also used the word "situationally" when talking about the role of McCoy in this offense. Buckhalter had 102 total touches last season. He touched the ball as many as 25 times in a game and as few as 2 times.
It's rare that a rookie makes an impact in this offense. DeSean Jackson did so a year ago and McCoy hopes to deliver this season. He has put in the work, both on the field and in the classroom. He has worked on his blitz recognition and his blocking assignments, and most importantly, he has studied under one of the game's best players.
"Brian's always encouraging me. I think he's always trying to get me motivated, get me ready to roll," McCoy said. "He's always trying to show me different things, teach me different things. I'm just happy to have a guy like that on my team, someone I can look up to."
Westbrook remembers his first game as a rookie. It was Sept. 8, 2002 at Tennessee. Playing in the same backfield as Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens, Westbrook rushed for 42 yards on eight carries.
"I didn't play very much. I was excited to play. I was happy," Westbrook said. "It's almost going to be that same feeling for me down in Carolina. I haven't really played very much in the preseason or practiced very much, but at the same time I'm fresh and I'm ready to go. I'll be excited just as I was my first game my rookie year."
In discussions about the ground game for both the Eagles and Panthers, McCoy's name has not really come up. Perhaps that's a good thing.
"I think LeSean's ready," Westbrook said. "I'm excited to see him play."
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 4:36 p.m., September 12, 2009