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John Smallwood: Eagles' McCoy becoming too good to disregard

THERE WERE a few occasions when Duce Staley convinced Eagles coach Andy Reid he should get the carries of a

LeSean McCoy's performance this season is forcing Andy Reid to run the ball more often. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
LeSean McCoy's performance this season is forcing Andy Reid to run the ball more often. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

THERE WERE a few occasions when Duce Staley convinced Eagles coach Andy Reid he should get the carries of a full-time feature back.

In 1999, Reid's first season, he actually gave Staley 325 carries.

Of course, Donovan McNabb was a rookie quarterback that year, and journeyman Doug Pederson, who started most of the games, wasn't suited to run Reid's attack to its pass-happiest.

Later, Brian Westbrook was a legitimate home-run hitter as a ball-carrier, but to be fair, Reid probably was correct to be cautious about Westbrook because of his susceptibility to injury.

For the most part, however, it's been fair to characterize Reid as appearing to have allergic reactions whenever the words "running game" were brought up concerning his offensive game plans.

So why does it seem that things might be a little different with second-year running back LeSean McCoy?

The number of carries McCoy has through the first five games project to only 218 for a 16-game season - which certainly wouldn't be out of order for a Reid back.

For some reason, though, I think that if McCoy stays healthy, he will end up with significantly more. I'm not saying he will get what Staley got in 1999, but I don't think Reid has any intention of phasing away carries for McCoy.

In fact, instead of his occasional tendencies to forget about his running back, I think Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will stay acutely aware of McCoy.

Honestly, how can they not?

Going into Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, McCoy ranks fifth among NFL running backs with 583 yards from scrimmage.

His 365 rushing yards rank 12th, but every back in front of him has at least 20 more carries.

McCoy's 5.4 yards per carry rank fifth in the league, and his five rushing touchdowns are second to Tennessee's Chris Johnson (six).

In a real sense, McCoy is making it impossible for his offensive coaches to forget about him.

"I don't know about all that," McCoy said. "Honestly, it feels the same. Early on, I got some carries, [and] lately it's been picking up.

"It's not something I worry about. The biggest thing is winning games and putting points on the board. You do whatever is asked of you to make that happen."

McCoy had only seven carries in the season opener against Green Bay, but he averaged 5.0 yards a pop and rushed for a touchdown.

He had 16 rushes against Detroit, gaining 120 yards and finishing with an average of 7.5. He rushed for three touchdowns.

McCoy's carries dropped to 11 against Jacksonville, but he was back up to 16 against Washington and had 18 in Sunday's win at San Francisco.

Staley, again in 1999, is the only running back to average 20 carries in a season for Reid, so I'm not sure McCoy will get that kind of work.

But I see no reason for him to slip from the range of 15 to 18. He's performed too well.

McCoy set a franchise rookie record by gaining 637 yards. He did that on 155 carries for an average of 4.1 a rush.

I know that statistical extrapolation isn't a reliable indicator, but McCoy's potential is impressive.

If McCoy averages 15 carries a game (he averaged 9.7 last season) and maintains his current average of 5.4 yards, he'd finish with 1,296 rushing yards. Increase his rushes to 16 a game, and he'd finish with 1,382 yards on 256 carries.

The most rushing yards during a season under Reid was in 2007, when Westbrook ran for 1,333 yards on 278 attempts.

If McCoy got 278 carries and stayed at 5.1 yards an attempt, he'd finish with 1,418 yards - the second-highest single-season total in Eagles history. Wilbert Montgomery has the franchise record, 1,512 rushing yards in 1979. He did it on 338 carries.

At this point of the season, McCoy has

68 carries and would have to average slightly more than 21 carries in the final 11 games to surpass Montgomery's total carries.

Reid, who has given a running back at least 250 carries only twice, might be a little more rush-friendly, but I can't see McCoy getting that many carries - maybe the

entire Eagles running corps, but not McCoy by himself.

It's not as if McCoy will keep count. He didn't even know where he ranked among backs in yards from scrimmage until he was asked about it.

"Really?" he responded. "That's interesting. I did not know. You can't get wrapped up in that. Statistics are something you look at after the season is over.

"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win ballgames. We've got a lot of weapons."

Reid shouldn't forget that McCoy's rushing ability is one of them. *

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