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With LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor, Eagles see Bills as a dual threat

SUNDAY, when warmups conclude and the hugs and handshakes and nonhandshakes have all been recorded for posterity, something will happen that you haven't heard much about this week.

SUNDAY, when warmups conclude and the hugs and handshakes and nonhandshakes have all been recorded for posterity, something will happen that you haven't heard much about this week.

The Eagles will host the Buffalo Bills in a football game. The guys who did or did not exchange greetings with LeSean McCoy will have to tackle their franchise's all-time leading rusher. They'll also have to deal with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, whose passer rating of 104.3 ranks fourth among NFL starters. Taylor, a dynamic, mobile QB who can extend plays with his legs, has thrown only four interceptions in 271 attempts this season. He has 318 rushing yards on 63 carries, 5.0 yards per carry.

Lose this game, and the luster from last week's Eagles reawakening at New England dulls quickly.

Does it help at all that so many Eagles played and practiced with McCoy, saw him dance and dazzle and make cuts that left defenders waving at air?

"I want to beat him," defensive lineman Cedric Thornton said of McCoy. "He's got different personnel (in Buffalo), but he's the same guy. Do I have a little advantage? I think so. He probably thinks he has an advantage over me, playing against me, he knows all about my attributes and all that."

McCoy's cutback ability and Taylor's ability to escape pressure all point to one defensive priority this week: Don't overpursue. Stay in your lane. Be patient.

"We've seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks this season," nose tackle Beau Allen noted. "It's just kind of the same thing as when we faced guys like Cam Newton - just keep him in the pocket, be aware of your rush lanes . . . keep your eyes on him."

In fact, Eagles coach Chip Kelly this week called Taylor "a mini Cam Newton." Informed of this on a media conference call, Bills coach Rex Ryan said, "Ooh, I like that." Ryan called Taylor the league's fastest quarterback.

With McCoy and with Taylor, "on the backside of a play, you've got to know where you're at, know your opponent, really. You've got to be aware on the backside that it could come back all the way to you," Allen said.

Lots of Eagles fans would never have traded McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, regardless of all the salary-cap particulars that Kelly again outlined Thursday. Talking to McCoy's ex-teammates this week, it seemed they held Shady's abilities in extremely high regard as well.

"I was shocked that he was traded," inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "Honestly, you know, because he was our best player."

"Shady, he's a dynamic player," Ryans said. "One thing about him, he's always been able to put a foot in the ground and make a lot of plays" with cutbacks. "Sometimes, you see plays are designed to go one way, he's probably one of the only backs I've seen in a while that has that ability to put the foot in the ground and take it out the backdoor . . . Fun guy to be around. I really enjoyed being around him, as a teammate."

"Call him for what he is. The last time we saw something like that was who? Barry (Sanders)," defensive lineman Vinny Curry said. "That dude, Shady, he's the best back in the league . . . He can turn nothing into something."

Led by McCoy's 792 yards on 173 carries (4.6 yards per carry), the Bills have the NFL's fourth-best rushing attack. They are 29th in passing yards, despite Taylor's efficiency.

"He's the cutback king," outside linebacker Brandon Graham said of McCoy. "Soon as you overrun, over the top, because you think he's running one way, he'll reverse field on you . . . Trust me, we know. We just want to stay on his upfield shoulder, if we're on the backside, and make sure we set the edge on the strong side."

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him," outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. "Every time he steps on the field, he performs . . . everybody that played with Shady, I think, loved playing with Shady, thought he was a good teammate. I'm sure their offense will want him to have a big day."

The Bills are tied for first in the NFL, with 15 runs of 20-plus yards.

"Everybody just has to be locked in as far as gap assignments, as far as guys who are on the backside of run plays really have to be attuned" to sudden reversals, Ryans said.

Taylor has thrown for 17 touchdowns, but he also has been sacked 25 times, a high figure for someone with 271 pass attempts.

Ryans observed that Taylor "does a really good job of throwing the deep ball," in addition to being mobile. Only the Saints (35) have given up more touchdown passes this season than the Eagles (28).

Sometimes to the irritation of their fans, the Eagles have made a priority of not getting burned by the longball, while in several games, including the 45-14 Thanksgiving loss at Detroit, they've given up so much underneath that the opponent didn't really need to throw deep.

"They have a legitimate threat in Sammy Watkins down the sideline," Eagles safety Ed Reynolds said. "They use their tight end, Charles Clay, as another deep threat. All their wide receivers can go deep, and Tyrod has the arm for it. Definitely, make them drive the field on us. Don't give them any 'trump' plays."

Clay is the leading receiver, with 50 catches for 519 yards. Wideout Robert Woods has 38 catches for 402 yards, and Watkins has 34 for 635, which factors to 18.7 yards per catch - the NFL's highest figure for receivers with as many catches as Watkins.

The Pick

IT WILL TAKE more than Sunday's minor miracle to get me onboard with the Eagles again.

Win this week, I'll start to seriously think about their chances of winning the NFC East. But the offense will have to do better than Sunday's 14 points, and, yes, I'm familiar with Chip Kelly's spiel on how the offense never had the ball in the third quarter because the defense and special teams kept scoring.

The DeMarco Murray situation is interesting - I'm betting he gets double-figures carries - but I think what might matter more is how much work Ryan Mathews gets after missing three weeks with a concussion. Mathews, a difference-maker for a team that lacks those, made it sound as if he was a bit rusty, when he returned to practice. The Bills have a big, tough defensive line, but they give up an average of 4.3 yards per carry, the same as the Eagles.

Someday, maybe, we'll see that no-doubt, breakout game from Sam Bradford, the one where you don't have to squint and turn the stat page sideways to make a case for the quarterback as the guy, going forward. This week would be a fortuitous time, facing the NFL's 23rd-ranked pass defense.

The Eagles very much need to repeat Sunday's consistent pass-rush success, achieved largely without blitzing, much better pressure than what we saw during their three-game losing streak.

Will any of that stuff actually happen? I'm still a skeptic.

Prediction: Bills 20, Eagles 17.