LeSean McCoy Takes Aim at Top Backs
Most players in the NFL set goals coming into each season. Some set goals that are all but impossible to reach, like when Brandon Graham set a target well north of Michael Strahan's NFL sacks record in his rookie year.
Graham ended up with three.
Others set goals that don’t necessarily push players as hard as a goal should – to make the roster or to make the practice squad. Then there’s LeSean McCoy this year.
“I want to be considered the best back in the league,” McCoy said upon arriving to training camp. “I think I have a lot more room for improvement.
“Guys talk about different players as the best backs. You know, you probably say [Adrian Peterson], or [Arian] Foster or [Ray] Rice. I want to be one of them guys at the end of the day where they’re saying McCoy.”
Perhaps Shady is being humble, or maybe he just isn’t listening to too many of those conversations. McCoy is definitely on the top five list, and outgained Peterson and Foster last year.
McCoy ran for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns last year on 273 carries, which left him fourth in yards and led the NFL in rushing touchdowns.
“I think to really be considered one of the better backs in the league it’s being consistent,” McCoy said. “Each year just putting enough work in, enough stats to really consider yourself one of the best.”
McCoy's gone over 1,000 yards in two straight seasons, so another four-digit campaign would go a long way in cementing his place at or near the top of the list of running backs.
McCoy also caught 48 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns, which left him 10th among running backs in receptions and 17th in receiving yards.
“I slacked a little bit in the passing game, I think also due to just fatigue – I’ve got to get in better shape this year,” McCoy said. “If I want to be a complete back, and be one of the better backs like I talked about, that’s one of the things I have to do.”
McCoy said that with better conditioning and improvements in the passing game, he can be on the field the entire game. Head coach Andy Reid might not see eye to eye, as he’s discussed scaling back McCoy’s touches to keep him fresh.
“There’s certain guys that can put numbers up without the number of touches and it’s been done, I could name a ton of backs,” McCoy said before referencing Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs running back who ran for 1,467 yards in 2010 with 6.4 yards per carry. “I don’t think it’s a matter of touching the ball a lot to get the yards, I’ve got to get it done just with the matchups.
"I think coach this year is going to try to match me up more for an advantage on our side and it’ll work out better for me.”
Any improvement over last year's numbers would leave McCoy as a virtual lock to repeat his All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors from 2011. The former Pitt running back has been talking about reaching the pinnacle at his position since the end of last year, and he knows what comes with it.
“I think it’s something that each player wants," McCoy said "You want to be kind of known as a good player around the league. If it means guys are gunning for you, that’s cool, ‘cause in this game, in this league, you’re here to compete.”
McCoy also knows of another responsibility that comes with being one of the best players at his position - setting an example for his teammates and filling the role of a leader.
“This offseason I’ve been talking to Mike [Vick] and he wants me to step up and be more of a leader, and I think I’m ready," McCoy said. "I’m 24. I feel like this is the time that Coach Reid and the coaching staff and the front office, I feel like have a lot of confidence in me so it’s time for me to step up and take that responsibility.”
Johnson and Young Corners Shine in Morning Practice
While wide receiver Damaris Johnson made some nice plays this morning, it was the rookies in the secondary who shined overall as the quarterbacks struggled on Michael Vick's day off.
Early on in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Brandon Boykin made some nice plays, including an interception down the right sideline on a woefully underthrown pass from Mika Kafka. Boykin was able to adjust to the ball and pick it off, but had the throw been on target, he might have been beaten by Ronald Johnson for 20 to 30 yards.
A few plays later, Boykin had extremely tight coverage (probably too tight) on Damaris Johnson, but the diminutive receiver hauled the pass in and kept control as Boykin took him to the ground. It was a rare, accidental tackle during non-contact drills.
Johnson made a few nice catches in traffic, including scooping up a low pass on a short out route that left his defender cursing in surprise as he darted upfield. Johnson isn't as much of a burner as DeSean Jackson, but he's similarly agile despite being slightly thicker in build.
Johnson's hands have been steady thus far in camp - he's only failed to catch one pass that I've seen hit his hands, and it was too poorly thrown to be considered a drop.
The offense wasn't particularly impressive, though, as Mike Kafka was a bit off. The third-year signal caller seemed to hold onto the ball too long and battled inaccuracy this morning.
Meanwhile, Trent Edwards, who struggled mightily in mini camps, made quicker decisions and delivered accurate passes more often. Rookie Nick Foles didn't look as crisp as his elders in some of his movements, but showed a solid arm and made some nice passes to offset a few mistakes.
Two others who made notable plays were Cliff Harris and Phillip Thomas. Harris, an undrafted rookie corner from Oregon, stepped in front of a pass to break it up in the end zone, earning cheers from his defensive teammates.
"Yesterday he learned a couple lessons down in the red zone, but we ran the same route against him today and he broke it up," said head coach Andy Reid of Harris. "That's a good sign that he could learn from his mistakes."
Thomas, an undrafted safety from Syracuse, broke up a couple of passes as well. What really jumped out, though, was his recognition when the Eagles sent a running back in motion out wide and moved a receiver to the slot.
Thomas quickly called out that the back was his responsibility, and directed a cornerback to shift with the wide receiver. The defensive coverage led to what likely would have been a sack in a real game.
McBriar Rebounding From Serious Injury
Newly signed Eagles punter Mat McBriar arrived to training camp this afternoon and went into detail on his injury.
McBriar described, in a pleasant Australian accent, that doctors found a cyst impeding the nerve in his left leg, which is his plant leg. The condition was causing foot drop, which can best be described by an inability to lift your toes and the end of your foot upwards, thus causing it to "drop."
The 33-year-old had surgery on February 7th to clean out the cyst and has been recovering since. The former Cowboy resumed punting about a month ago, and said he's still a bit rusty. His numbers were down last year, but he admitted that his foot drop was causing the problem.
"Last year was difficult, the injury occurred in about October," McBriar said. "It was tough to deal with, it was different then - before the surgery I had a lot of nerve pain and my foot was sort of completely dropped, so I just didn't have any control. My consistency was just horrendous."
McBriar averaged 48.4 yards per punt through the first eight weeks of the season prior to missing a game against the Seahawks. From that point on his average dropped to 40.3 yards. From 2006 through 2010, McBriar averaged 47.1 yards per punt.
Last year, Chas Henry averaged 42.9 yards in his rookie season.
“It should be a great competition, and that’s what we’re trying to do," said head coach Andy Reid. "You are talking about a kid who is one of the best in the National Football League and he’s coming off an injury, so we’ll see how that all works out.
"I don’t expect Chas to bow down to him at all, and he’s going to come out and compete. It should be a good battle.”
McBriar now uses a brace while punting, and said he should be able to take on a full practice schedule soon.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.