LeSean McCoy bounces around the NovaCare Complex with the enthusiasm of a little kid who doesn't have a care in the world. McCoy has a sparkle in his eye, is quick with a smile and is about as pleasant a young man as you will find anywhere. When he is on the field, he flips a switch and becomes a competitive, tough and physical running back upon whom the Eagles will rely on this weekend to beat the Packers.
While the free world has been focused on Michael Vick and his aura of greatness -- OK, OK, his quad injury feels great already -- McCoy bounces in and out of the Eagles locker room and deftly avoids reporters as easily as he dances around defenders on the football field. McCoy lurks in the shadows as far as the pre-game hype goes for Sunday, but rest assured that he is a vital part of the Eagles' plan for Green Bay.
McCoy, in his first fulll season as a starting running back in the NFL, gained 1,080 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He also had a team-best 78 receptions, most among league running backs, and proved to be one of the best in the league at taking a screen pass for big, big yardage. McCoy's 1,672 yards from scrimmage ranked first in the conference and fourth in the NFL. In two seasons, McCoy has gained 1,717 rushing yards and 2,617 total yards from scrimmage, both franchise records.
That McCoy didn't make the Pro Bowl -- he is a first alternate -- is a crime beyond heinous, but that is another rant for another day.
What I'm getting to is this: Vick is the obvious primary key for the Eagles offense on Sunday, but McCoy is just a smidgen behind. He must get his touches for the Eagles to win. This is not an all-out plea for the Eagles to run the football more, because there are many ways McCoy can get his touches. And the Eagles have to exercise all of those opportunities and take advantage of McCoy's versatility.
A nice, round number of times McCoy has the ball in his hands is 22. Get him 18 carries and 4 receptions. Move him around the formation and make the Packers account for him. Get McCoy into space and this Eagles offense goes to another level. I'm all for involving the wide receivers and for throwing the football, but it seems to me the offense works best when McCoy is the base of the attack. Get him going early and Green Bay can't tee off on Vick. Have McCoy gash the Packers a couple of times in the first half and put the defense on its heels.
McCoy hasn't really been a focal point for all of the national reporters visiting the NovaCare Complex this week. Vick garners most of the attention, and that is understandable. You can be certain that Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is well aware of McCoy and the talents he brings to the table. McCoy's production will be a very fair barometer of how much success the offense enjoys.
Jamar Chaney is likely to start with Stewart Bradley still recovering, meaning the Eagles will start a rookie at middle linebacker for the first time in a playoff game since, well, I don't know. Omar Gaither started at WILL in the 2006 playoffs. Jerry Robinson started as a rookie in 1979, but the Eagles played a 3-4 defense. Is Chaney on the verge of Eagles history, or am I missing something here?
- One of the reasons I think Dimitri Patterson is going to be a success in this league for years to come is that he just doesn't back down on or off the field. He has been a standup guy the entire time, and he has not ducked the media. That says something to me.
- Crtical couple of days for Max Jean-Gilles, who missed practice on Wednesday with his ankle injury. The Eagles have just not been able to have a consistent five players line up along the offensive line this season. You wonder how more prolific the offense would have been with a stable fivesome up front for 16 games.
- Antonio Dixon is an important piece of the Eagles' defense on Sunday. He was not starting in the first meeting between these teams. Now, Dixon represents one of the most improved players in the league. He has to button up that Green Bay running game.
- How often will Green Bay line up with three and four wide receivers? And how do you blitz a quarterback when the field is spread like that? Challenges, challenges. The more I consider this game and these matchups, the more I wonder how many wrinkles Sean McDermott can have in his game plan.