Two league sources Wednesday confirmed that there is increasing mutual interest in a reunion between the Eagles and free-agent running back LeSean McCoy.
There should be. He isn’t the same Pro Bowl talent that Chip Kelly traded away in 2015, but LeSean “Shady” McCoy is precisely the sort of understudy the Eagles need for Miles “Boobie” Sanders, whose nicknames alone would unleash untapped marketing opportunity. Not to mention that there’s still some spark left in Shady.
In his first 11 games as a Chief last year McCoy, then 31, gained 410 yards on 84 carries and scored four rushing touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 177 yards and another score. His contributions dwindled down the stretch, and he was a nonfactor in the playoffs, and his 2018 season in Buffalo was similarly modest ... but what team wouldn’t take 587 total yards, a 5.29 yards-per-touch average, and five TDs in the first 11 games of a season from, say, a $2 million, 32-year-old backup?
McCoy’s 2019 numbers virtually mirror the production the Eagles got from Jordan Howard last year, and injury limited Howard to one snap after Game 9. McCoy, said a well-placed source Monday, is completely healthy. As usual. In 10 seasons, McCoy has missed just 11 games to injury.
Perhaps more than any other reason, McCoy would be an apt tutor for Sanders. The Penn State star put together an astonishing rookie campaign that saved the Eagles’ injury-addled season, but there’s a level of excellence in Sanders yet untapped that McCoy could help him realize.
McCoy told ESPN in March that he wanted to play two more years, but, in an interview with the NFL Network two weeks ago, he modified that goal last week to one more season -- “To put a stamp on it.” He wants the stamp to happen in Philadelphia, where he remains, arguably, the best back in franchise history. In just six seasons, McCoy became the all-time leading rusher, with 6,792 yards. He holds the highest per-carry average, 4.65 yards. Opponents hadn’t feared a big-play back like McCoy since “Supersonic” Steve Van Buren ran his way into the Hall of Fame with his dominance in the 1940s. They haven’t feared one since Shady, either. Not until Boobie popped onto the scene last season.
Sanders sitting at the feet of McCoy would also continue a uniquely Philadelphia tradition.
Ricky Watters taught Duce Staley in 1997. Staley spent 2002-03 helping Brian Westbrook. Brian Westbrook guided LeSean McCoy in 2009. Shady is eager to pay it forward.
He told ESPN he wants to be “that veteran running back to help the room out. ... If I could be that guy to help that young superstar to emerge into that superstar superstar, I would love to do that.”
Sanders clearly is headed for superstar superstardom. He set Eagles rookie records for rushing yards, with 818, total yards from scrimmage, with 1,327 (which also led all NFL rookies last season), and all-purpose yards, with 1,641. That’s the most all-purpose yards since McCoy gained 2,146 in 2013. He gained at least 20 yards on 13 plays, fourth among all NFL running backs. He ran for three TDs and caught three more, including the Play of the Season: a 15-yard sliding catch in the back of the end zone that gave the Eagles the lead in the third quarter of a must-win Game 14 at Washington.
So, if Sanders is already so good, and if he’s already got Staley as his running backs coach, why does he need McCoy to be his big brother?
Because Sanders still has plenty to learn about the position. His reads and his routes and his feet can be sharper. His blocking, which occasionally flashed, can improve in recognition and execution. He needs to be more patient.
Also: Why not add a respected veteran?
Ted Williams coached Watters, Staley, Westbrook, and McCoy. He was the best position coach the Eagles had over a 20-year span. But he was a coach. Wisdom sounds clearer when it comes from a teammate.
McCoy clearly likes the kid. He took time to tout Miles on Miles’ Instagram post after the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Game 15.
These types of running backs are a special breed with traits that go beyond their abilities to catch, and juke, and score. None of them got drafted in the first round, but all believed they had first-round talent. That sort of insult never heals. It only motivates. It fueled them all.
McCoy brings even more value to the Eagles in this truncated offseason, in the form of experience -- he has a Super Bowl ring, and so he knows what it takes to make it all the way -- and familiarity. He’s a plug-and-play weapon in a COVID-addled world.
Staley coached the Eagles’ running backs in McCoy’s last two seasons in Philly, 2013 and 2014. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who added the title of run game coordinator in 2018, also coached the line in 2013 and 2014. McCoy basically knows the offense, since head coach Doug Pederson runs a version of the scheme Andy Reid uses in Kansas City, where Pederson was the coordinator from 2013-15. Pederson also was an Eagles assistant for McCoy’s first four years as a pro.
That McCoy eventually went to six Pro Bowls with the Eagles and Bills. That McCoy is gone forever.
That’s OK. This McCoy can still contribute.