McCoy might be best Eagles running back ever

The list of standout Eagles running backs is long, but LeSean McCoy may be at the top.


— Wilbert Montgomery had pure speed. No other Philadelphia Eagle hit the hole faster.

Brian Westbrook had pure instinct. No other Eagle had a better grasp of the complex modern game of football.

Steve Van Buren was the most accomplished of his era. Nobody in the NFL did it better until Jim Brown came along.

So where does the active LeSean McCoy rank among the greatest Eagles running backs of all time?

"I think he's first, I think he's first," said Duce Staley, another former Eagles back who wasn't too shabby himself. "That's pretty high."

Staley was speaking last week in the atrium of the NovaCare Complex, where photos of all the greatest Eagles past and present adorn the walls. Now the team's running backs coach, Staley paused to look around.

"There's been a lot of great backs that have come through here," he said, "but when it's all said and done and the smoke clears, 25 will be [number] one.

"I think it's because of all the things he can do, how he can create in space. The type of offense that we're in now, that features running backs, that matters too."

If McCoy, in the middle of his fifth pro season, isn't at the top of the list already, he's certainly on pace to get there. That much can't even be disputed.

The Harrisburg native (Bishop McDevitt) and former University of Pittsburgh star not only comes into Week 11's rematch with the Washington Redskins as the NFL's leading rusher, with 932 yards on 193 attempts, but his 4,798 career yards put him on pace to shatter Montgomery's franchise record of 6,538 far quicker than Montgomery needed to establish it.

McCoy has played in just 68 games, Montgomery in 100. Westbrook, who is right behind Montgomery on the list, needed 107 games and 1,308 attempts to gain his 5,995 career yards before moving on the San Francisco 49ers.

Furthermore, McCoy owns the highest yards-per-carry average (4.7) of any non-quarterback in team history.

Those are just some of the measurables.

Some of McCoy's other positive tangibles that can never be defined by statistics include his learned ability to pick up blitzers, an enormously high pain threshold and a level head, at least when it comes to football matters.

Dramatic and often wacky personal life aside, McCoy seems to get it as well as anyone in this game ever has. He can focus in on the important stuff without distraction.

For instance, the former second-round draft pick, who left Pitt after his sophomore year, never pressured management for an extension while outperforming his rookie contract throughout the 2010 and 2011 seasons. (He broke Correll Buckhalter's Eagles rookie rushing record with 606 in 2009 and broke Van Buren's single-season touchdown and rushing TD records in 2011).

He just kept reassuring everyone who asked that the deal would get done eventually. No rush.

It did. (McCoy signed a five-year, $45-million deal in May 2012)

McCoy also has never griped about lack of carries or the team's often tentative commitment to the running game, unlike other Eagles greats such as Ricky Watters and, well, Staley at the tale end of his playing career in Philly. McCoy has just rolled with everything, a coach's dream superstar, to be sure.

This year, under new head coach Chip Kelly's offense, McCoy is flourishing like never before and is reminded about his league-leading status on a daily basis. That's something he'd prefer not to think about until it's over.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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