One year ago at this time, LeSean McCoy had just finished his finals and was two weeks from a bowl game without a care in the world.

Now, the rookie is the starting running back on an Eagles team that could clinch a playoff spot by late Monday night. It might not feel as if he's carrying the weight of a planet - the Eagles are loaded on offense, after all - but it's certainly not a situation he's accustomed to.

"It's a different world, man," McCoy said yesterday.

It's Week 15 in the NFL, when even the more durable feel the wear and tear of the season. But for rookies, it's when they're supposed to crash into a figurative wall, having never played more than 13 college games to this point.

"I don't see the wall," McCoy said. "There is a difference - the practice, the tempo. It's a long season, to be honest with you. But it ain't that bad so far."

With Brian Westbrook injured for more than half the season, McCoy has shouldered more of the rushing load than many people expected.

Signs indicate that he is slowing down. In the first five games he started, McCoy ran for 395 yards on 81 carries, a 4.9-yard average. In his last two starts, 16 carries have produced just 30 yards and a 1.9-yard average.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said McCoy wasn't wearing down.

"The opportunities haven't been quite there for him," Mornhinweg said. "We got to do a better job [blocking] for him at the point of attack. We've done a little bit better job" for fullback Leonard Weaver.

Weaver has had 14 carries for 70 yards, a 5.0-yard average, as well as a touchdown over the last two games. The running game didn't put up eye-popping numbers in that span, but the balance opened up things for an explosive passing attack.

"It's not my ball because Leonard Weaver gets his share of carries and because he's been productive," McCoy said. "But I feel they know I can run the ball."

With 558 yards on the ground thus far, McCoy needs only 29 more to pass Correll Buckhalter for the Eagles' all-time rookie rushing record.

Moreover, he is second only to Denver's Knowshon Moreno, who has 837 yards, among rookies this season. While Moreno's numbers have remained more consistent, he has had more carries per game - 15.8 to McCoy's 10.7.

There have been plenty of running backs that have come into the NFL and started right away, but there haven't been many that took the bulk of the first-team snaps during training camp and in every preseason game. But that's what McCoy did as Westbrook was being eased back after two off-season operations.

So what can a 21-year-old do to keep from regressing?

"I'm staying in a lot more," McCoy said. "Being introduced into the NFL, you want to go out like an NFL player, but now I'm just relaxing as much as I can."

Sometimes that's not enough. This is the time when teams find out what their most recent draft picks are made of.

"This is what they do for a living," Mornhinweg said. "You got to have a certain mentality: 'I will not be denied. I'm going to put in the hard work.' "

Last season as a rookie, wide receiver DeSean Jackson's production nose-dived in the last four games of the regular season. He turned things around in the playoffs, however.

"Last year, it was like I ran into a wall and I didn't know where the wall came from," Jackson said.

Players also have to deal with, in some cases, failure for the first time.

"I've always been pretty successful playing," McCoy said. "I'm not bragging. Things just came easy. I was one of the top recruits coming out of high school. In college [at Pittsburgh], I went in there early, played right away, and did pretty well.

"So now I'm competing on a level where I'm not sure if I'm leaving something out."

Help could be on the way. Westbrook, who is trying to come back from two concussions, returned to practice last week. Even though he probably won't play Sunday against San Francisco, the 30-year-old is inching toward playing again.

"If it was up to me, I would want him back early," McCoy said. "It's different when he's here - especially for me."