LeSean McCoy is getting fewer snaps and touches in the red zone over the last eight games. He is having a solid season by most estimates, but his rushing and receiving statistics have declined and with a $10 million salary next season in which only $1 million is guaranteed, there is more to speculation that the Eagles' franchise running back may not return in 2015.
If the Eagles are to have any shot at the playoffs, they must win their final two games, starting on Saturday at the Redskins. They will likely need McCoy at top form to win both. He is instrumental to the Eagles' offensive success, which would seem to make it likely that he returns next season.
But stranger things have happened. McCoy only has to look across the field at Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson to know that Eagles coach Chip Kelly can be fickle when it comes to superstars.
He could also look at how the Eagles coach has recently used him (or not) in crunch time.
The Eagles have increasingly used Chris Polk in the red zone - in particular closer to the goal line - and a combination of McCoy and Darren Sproles on the field at the same time. While he still receives the bulk of snaps and touches inside the 20, McCoy has seen his opportunities decrease.
On Sunday against the Cowboys, the Eagles advanced to the red zone on three possessions. McCoy had a total of four touches and three carries for 10 yards. But on the Eagles' four rushes from the 5-yard line or closer, he saw the ball just once.
Polk had two carries on three of his snaps and scored both times - from the Dallas 5 and 1. Sproles had the other - a 1-yard touchdown scoot with McCoy helping to pave the way with a lead block.
Kelly was asked if he was using McCoy less in the red zone.
"You mean the two times Chris went in the game? So yeah, the two times Chris got in the game," Kelly said. "But LeSean was in there. We only got down there three times. So it's not anything different."
But overall there has been a difference as Kelly has tried to find a cure to the Eagles' season-long red-zone woes.
In the first six games, McCoy was on the field for 77 percent (43 of 56) of the Eagles' red-zone plays and took 74 percent (20 of 27) of the running back touches. In the last eight games, he's seen 65 percent (59 of 91) of red-zone snaps and has gotten 64 percent (32 of 50) of the touches.
Sproles' snaps have increased (18 percent to 24 percent) as Kelly and his coaches have found ways to pair him with McCoy (seven snaps in the last five games vs. three in the first nine). But Sproles' touches have dropped (26 percent to 12 percent) as Polk's role has expanded.
Polk missed two of the Eagles' first six games because of a nagging hamstring injury, but he didn't receive a single red-zone snap in the other four. In the last eight games, however, he's been on the field for 17 of 91 plays (19 percent) inside the 20 and has 12 of 50 running back touches (24 percent).
"He's not getting all of them," McCoy said of Polk's increased chances. "If that helps the team that's what I'm going to do. There [are] just some plays where I've seen third-and-1 type of situation, where if I was in there I probably wouldn't have got it.
"Where I see, I see him hit a guy, drag a guy, and get in there. It's hard to be selfish when a player like Polk can do those types of things."
The 5-foot-11, 222-pound Polk has been productive, running for three touchdowns on 12 red-zone carries. But Sproles, who is listed at 5-6, 190 pounds, has five rushing touchdowns on nine red-zone carries.
McCoy, meanwhile, has three rushing touchdowns on 49 carries.
Yards are difficult to come by inside an opposing defense's 20, but is has been especially so for McCoy. He has averaged 2.3 yards a carry inside the red zone starting from an average 11.4-yard line of scrimmage. Sproles has averaged 7.1 yards from the 11.6-yard line and Polk 2.6 yards from the 7.3-yard line.
The Eagles have been up and down in the red zone all season, but have converted 16 of their last 27 possessions (53 percent) into touchdowns over the last eight games. In the first six games, their red-zone success rate (35 percent) in terms of touchdowns (7 of 20) was worst in the NFL.
McCoy had three carries for minus-3 yards in the first meeting with the Redskins in September. The Eagles suffered mass casualties on the offensive line the first two games, but he was held to 22 yards on 19 totes.
After a slow start to the season (2.9 yards a carry in the first five games), McCoy has rebounded (4.7 average in the next nine). But he's rushing a whole yard (4.1 average) less than he did in 2013. He has only four total scores after last season's 11 and has had less of a role as a receiver (24 catches vs. 52) with Sproles around.
Sproles has two years left on his contract, but it's difficult to see the Eagles moving forward with the 31-year old as their primary running back. The 25-year-old Polk will be a restricted free agent in the offseason. He will likely return, but the 39 carries he's had this season are the most of his NFL career. He's also missed 11 games in three seasons because of injury.
Kelly likes a balanced offense. He has often needed one over the last two seasons because of the Eagles' unsettled quarterback situation. It could remain unsettled next season or at least not optimum if Nick Foles returns as the starter.
McCoy would count $12 million against the Eagles' 2015 cap. If they were to release him, they would still take a $4.4 million hit. McCoy doesn't turn 27 until July. Aside from maybe the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray, he would be the most attractive free-agent running back on the market.
It is unlikely he would take a pay cut to stay with the Eagles.
And yet, Kelly keeps taking the Eagles' $45 million tailback off the field in key spots. Is it McCoy or the offense? He scored 20 rushing touchdowns and led the NFL in third-and-one conversions in 2011.
"Well," McCoy said, "I didn't say I can't do it."