Tag Archives: Jason Kelce

Eagles Still Searching for Answers on Offense

10 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

In the Philadelphia Eagles’ first four games this season, they have only played three halves of good football and have just one win.
That’s due to an offensive line that keeps allowing penetration into the backfield, which has led to a poor running game, which has led to the Eagles not being able to get anything else started offensively.

As a team, the Eagles are averaging just 3.1 yards on the ground. Running back DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing last season as the featured back for the Dallas Cowboys, has just 47 yards on 29 carries and is averaging just 1.6 yards per carry.

After the Birds 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins, Murray complained about not getting enough carries. Considering how abysmally the offensive line has performed to this point, more carries for Murray or any of the other running backs may not help.

I’m not so sure things are going to get any better when they take on the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday because this already much maligned offensive line is riddled with injuries. Left tackle Jason Peters left the Washington game with a quadriceps strain and it’s uncertain whether he will play on Sunday because he didn’t practice on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Right tackle Lane Johnson played with a sprained knee and has had limited participation in practice. But even before those injuries, the Eagles haven’t gotten the running game going all season.

Center Jason Kelce said it’s been a frustrating season so far and doesn’t see things getting any better for the offense at this point.

“Really, the only reason we’re losing football games is because of offensive mistakes, penalties and frankly, not being able to run-block well and move the football,” Kelce said.”We haven’t adjusted well in game situations, we’ve gotten frazzled, when guys slant across our face we don’t handle it well. When teams blitz us, we’re not on the same page. It hasn’t been a unified offense.”

Eagles’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur attributes the offense’s slow start in games on the Birds inability to convert on third down situations, especially on third and long. The Eagles tied for last in the NFL in third down conversion percentage.

“I think what happens is we don’t convert on third down. You see in the second half where we’ve been able to kind of stay on the field and extend drives and score points. We converted on third down,” Shurmur said.
“Now there are multiple reasons for that. It could be a longer third down because you didn’t do so well on first or second, orit could be a manageable third down and you don’t execute that play,” Shurmur said. “So it’s a combination of things. We’re searching to make sure we get that right.”

Getting it right has been a huge challenge for the Eagles offense so far this season. In one of those few halves in which the offense has gotten into a rhythm, it’s been the Eagles passing game that’s got the offense going.

That was the case in the game against Washington where Sam Bradford completed a pair of touchdown passes that went beyond 40 yards and helped the Eagles take the lead in the fourth quarter.

Maybe the Eagles need to pass to set up the run, something that head coach Chip Kelly alluded to in his Wednesday press conference. Kelly said the Eagles inability to convert on third down comes from falling behind on first and second down.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got some quick throws, maybe we can get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands that are nice, easy throws to kind of get going,” Kelly said. “I think with this group, once you establish and can get into a rhythm, we can be pretty good.”

That’s something the Eagles have to do starting with the first quarter and they have to maintain that rhythm for the full 60 minutes.

(Today’s column is dedicated to the late J. Whyatt Mondesire, Publisher

and CEO of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun who passed away last Sunday)

Truly Offensive: The New-Look Philadelphia Eagles are 0-2 With an Offense That’s Bringing New Meaning to the Term

24 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly shipped LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and gave an unceremonious heave-ho to Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis, the warning from fans and the media was “You’d better replace them with something better…”

Did the Birds do that?

If the last two games are any indication, the answer has to be an emphatic Hell No!

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the debacle that was last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they take on a 2-0 New York Jets squad.

The big question that everyone is asking now is whether or not the Eagles offensive line can protect quarterback Sam Bradford and open up the kinds of holes that will allow running back DeMarco Murray, who was held to two yards on 13 carries and has only 11 yards after two games this season.

Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with over 1,800 yards.

The Eagles offensive line got beat down by the Cowboys front seven that had seven tackles for a loss of yardage. A quick Dallas defense outmuscled center Jason Kelce, guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.

Two plays, in particular, symbolized the Eagles’ frustrations.

On a running play late in the first quarter, Murray lost two yards when Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain got into the Eagles backfield by slicing between Kelce and Gardner. The penetration forced Murray to go right where he was taken down by linebacker Sean Lee.

Perhaps the most blatant example of how poorly the offensive line performed in the running game was the Eagles first possession of the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Birds 32, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence streaked past tight end Brent Celek and dropped Murray for a six-yard loss.

On the next play, Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sped past Peters and tackled Murray for a loss of another five yards. No matter how you slice it, Dallas owned the trenches and the Eagles didn’t.

“There were a couple times … when the linebacker level would shoot through and then kind of disrupt and knock our guys off of our double teams,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Then there were other times when we got split, whether it be the double team or the edge block with the tight end. So there was no consistent one reason. It’s just areas where if we just block better, I think we’ll get it fixed.”

With an even better Jets defense on the horizon, the Eagles have to do something, anything to fix the offensive line.

“We just couldn’t get things going at different times. We have to be better, no matter what the play calls are,” Murray said after the game. “I think individually and collectively, as an offense, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, watch the film and go on from there.”

The Eagles coaches have been saying that their issues in the offensive line can be fixed by the offensive line simply executing and doing their jobs. I don’t know if it’s really as simple as that. Not the way they were dominated by Dallas.
I don’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but from what I saw on the film, the Cowboys had the Eagles number. Usually, when the middle is jammed in Kelly’s offense, the running backs can find a cut back lane and bounce it to the outside.

The Cowboys, especially linebacker Sean Lee, had the edges covered. Lee had two tackles for a loss as a result. It was that kind of a day for the Eagles.

Now Kelly has to figure out a way for his offense to get its mojo back because if it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Eagles fans.

Eagles Shortcomings Bite Them in Critical Stretch of the Season

27 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. He has82 catches and 10 touchdown passes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re in the playoffs or making a run for the postseason during the latter stages of the regular season, the loss that ultimately ends your season often exposes the weakness or weaknesses that’s bothered you all season.

That was definitely the case with the Eagles who will be spending January watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Washington and the Dallas Cowboys win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas wins the NFC East while the Eagles, who will close out the 2014 season on the road against the New York Giants, will be spending the offseason trying to figure out what went wrong.

The Eagles season came down to losses in their last three games and was reflective of the shortcomings that all knew were there, but were hoping they can somehow overcome. In the end, they couldn’t get out of the way themselves enough when it counted.

Even before Nick Foles season-ending injury, the Eagles struggled for consistency at the quarterback position. After Foles tossed 27 touchdown passes against two interceptions last season, he was inconsistent in the eight games he started. He had 13 touchdown passes and 13 turnovers 10 interceptions and three fumbles.

At times, Foles has held the ball too long and made pump fakes that gave opposing defensive that extra split second to make a play on the ball.

Sanchez, too, was a turnover machine in the seven games he started this season with 13. Eagles’ quarterbacks have committed a combined 26 turnovers including 20 interceptions. The Birds lead the league in turnovers with 35 and are 25th in the NFL in takeaway-giveaway ratio at minus-eight.

When your quarterbacks are committing nearly 75 percent of your team’s turnovers, you are not going to be a playoff team or if you do get to the playoffs, you’re not going to be there very long.
In the three-game losing streak that ultimately bounced them out of the playoffs, the Eagles committed eight turnovers.

In defense of Eagles quarterbacks, especially Foles, the offensive line had its share of injuries early in the season and had problems protecting the quarterback. Center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis have missed time due to injury. Veteran guard Todd Heremanns is currently on the injured reserve list.

All that said, some Eagles fans are beginning to doubt their faith in Foles as the starting quarterback and are hoping the team can move up in the NFL dream so they can draft Oregon star Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

While Mariota and Winston would fit Chip Kelly’s offense quite well, I don’t think it’s going to happen because I don’t think the Eagles are interested in giving up the kitchen sink or the entire front office’s first born to get either one of those guys.

For now, they are invested in Foles and the Eagles certainly have justification for doing so. Foles has done quite well in Kelly’s tenure as head coach.

“Yeah I think we know what we have in Nick,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “And we’ve seen a guy that I think, by last count, he’s 14-4 as a starter. So that’s really how you judge a quarterback.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the back end of the Eagles defense. Some of those guys can and should be replaced.

Since the departures of Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, the Eagles secondary haven’t quite put the fear of God into the hearts and minds of opposing receivers.

At the cornerback position, the Birds are very average at best and just plain awful or worse at times. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a decent player, has been the weak link in the secondary for the last two weeks. He has been burned for three touchdowns and has given up at least four plays of 25 yards or more.

In Fletcher’s defense, he was going one-on-one against Dez Bryant and the speedy former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson. Some safety help would have been nice. At the same time, the secondary has been a weakness masked by the solid play of the Eagles front seven. The Birds are second in the NFL in sacks with 49.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Eagles defense has improved since he took over last year, but the deep ball has been an Achilles Heel.

“In a lot of categories, yes and in a very important one, the deep pass, the vertical ball, the plus 20-yard passes, we’re not,” Davis said. “I’ve got to get that fixed.”

Ya think.

The Eagles aren’t a bad football team now, but in order for the team to go forward and really be a contender they’re going to make some personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball.

In the wake of the Eagles not making the playoffs, fans and a few local media people are questioning the release of former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whose ability to stretch the defense made the Birds offense one of the most dangerous in the NFL last season.

Some observers are saying if Jackson was with the Eagles along with Jeremy Maclin, rookie Jordan Matthews, and Riley Cooper—the Birds offense would be even more dangerous. Running back LeSean McCoy, who is fourth in the league in rushing, would have even more yards on the ground.

While you might have a legitimate argument on one level, it may not have mattered if Jackson was there given the struggles of the quarterbacks with turnovers and the injuries to the offensive line.

If you’re still mad about the Jackson trade, consider the following:

Coming into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Giants, Maclin has 82 receptions for 1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns. McCoy has 1,220 yards rushing—not as good as last year, but he’s still in the league’s top five.

Darren Sproles had more touchdown passes than Jackson with eight and gave defenses more than something to think about. If not for New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Matthews might be in the NFL Rookie-of-the-Year conversation-he caught 59 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.

What really bothers fans about the Jackson release was that the Eagles got nothing of equal value or better on either side of the ball. That was the real tragedy of letting go of your best receiver.

During this offseason, the Eagles have to get better if they want to be in the postseason in 2015.

Injury-Riddled Offensive Line Catches up to Birds in Loss to Niners

30 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Looking from afar at the score of the Eagles 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, you might think it was a close exciting game by two dynamic offenses.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry in 2014 after leading the NFL in rushing in 2013. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry in 2014 after leading the NFL in rushing in 2013. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Instead, the Eagles portion of the final score hid the lack of production of an offense that produced zero points, crossed midfield just once, committed four turnovers and could not run or throw the football.

If wasn’t for a blocked punt for a touchdown, an 82-yard punt return by Darren Sproles and an interception for a touchdown by safety Malcolm Jenkins, it would have been a 26-0 49ers shutout.

The Eagles came into the game missing three offensive linemen due to injury and suspension and they were exposed by a 49ers defense that put pressure on quarterback Nick Foles, who had problems finding his receivers. He was sacked just once, but most of the day avoiding rushers.

When you have a patchwork offensive line, what happened on Sunday is inevitable and the Eagles lost this game in the trenches and they could not get anything going throughout the game.

After passing for over 300 yards in his first three games, Foles was 21-of-43 for 195 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Meanwhile, the struggles of the Eagles running game continued as LeSean McCoy gained just 17 yards on 10 carries.

For the game, the Eagles had just 213 yards of offense after averaging over 400 in their first three games. Coming into the next to the last drive of the game, the Eagles had not crossed midfield and had just 127 yards of offense.

Incredibly, for all those struggles on offense, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game.

When the Birds finally crossed fifty, they moved the ball to the 49ers one-yard line with two-minutes left after a five-yard run by McCoy from the six. The Eagles were one yard from pulling out a win. They had two downs to get one yard.

Questionable Play Calling on the Goal Line

You would think Chip Kelly would have called at least one running play in that sequence, especially with three time outs. With the way the running game was going, Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had no confidence in letting McCoy getting the ball here.

If you saw the television replay on the third and goal play, the 49ers linebackers were about two or three yards behind the defensive line and looked like they were playing to defend the pass.

A more experienced quarterback sees that and calls a running play or maybe Kelly and his offensive coordinator see this and signals the quarterback to call a running back.

If the Birds coaches didn’t see it, FOX color analyst Troy Aikman saw it and pointed out how far the linebackers were away from the line during the replay of Foles incomplete pass to tight end Brent Celek and said the Eagles should have considered running the ball there.

Even if the Birds didn’t get in the end zone running the ball in that situation, the threat to run on fourth down might have had the 49ers creeping their linebackers and safeties close to the line. Instead, the Niners, knowing the Eagles were going to pass, kept their linebackers and defensive backs covering the end zone.

Those two errant passes yielded nothing and they turned the ball over on downs. After the 49ers were forced to punt, the Eagles had another chance to win the game.

Unfortunately, the Eagles couldn’t get beyond their own 31 and on fourth and 24, Foles threw his second interception to end the game.

Last year, the Eagles had a healthy offensive lineman and they were among the league’s best rushing teams. This season that’s not the case with guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce on the injured list and Lane Johnson out due to suspension.

The good news for the Birds is that they get Johnson back at the right tackle position this week. But will it help the Birds to get better in the trenches to open holes for McCoy and to enable Foles to find open receivers downfield?

With the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys starting to play well, the Eagles need to figure out a way for that line to get better.

Game Changer: Darren Sproles Comes up Big for Birds in Season Opener

8 Sep

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Sproles 49-yard dash in the third quarter of Sunday's game against Jacksonville eventually sparked the Eagles to a victory over the Jaguars. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Sproles 49-yard dash in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Jacksonville eventually sparked the Eagles to a victory over the Jaguars. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Going back to his college days at Kansas State and in his pro career with the New Orleans and San Diego Chargers, Darren Sproles has always been capable of coming up with the big game-changing play to help his team win.

“That’s the advantage of having (Sproles) on your team,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who played with him Sproles in New Orleans. “At any point in time, he can be that guy to spark and blow the game open. When we needed a play, he gives us an explosive run. We need another thing, he gives a good return.”

After a mistake-filled first half in which the Eagles found themselves in a 17-0 hole in the season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sproles electrifying 49-yard touchdown run on a fourth and one play on the Birds first possession of the second half was the jump start the Birds needed to get back in the game.

“Yeah, we started slow, but I think that was the turning point.” Sproles said. “That got us going. We knew they were getting tired, so we tried to hurry up on them. They were not even set and left a big hole in the middle of the field. ”

Energized by Sproles’ big run, the Eagles owned the second half and came away with a 34-17 win over Jacksonville in front of a packed house of 69, 596 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on a hot Sunday afternoon.

“We got down 17 and we felt like we had to go for it on fourth down,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “You don’t think you’re going to get a touchdown out of that. You’re hoping to just convert, keep the chains moving, we’re trying to get some momentum to jump back on our side. …That was a huge jump start for us.”

Sproles game-changing play was also a by-product of the Eagles fast-pace no-huddle offense which caught a visibly-tired Jaguars defense off-guard without the right personnel package. The Birds took advantage to get back in the game and eventually win it.

“It absolutely caught them off guard,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce. “They didn’t have a safety back there. Once we broke through the hole, it was smooth sailing.”

After the Eagles forced Jacksonville to punt on its possession after the Birds first touchdown, Sproles made another big play when he returned Bryan Anger’s punt from the Eagles 38 to the Jacksonville 40 for a 22-yard return.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards in the Eagles win over Jacksonville. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards in the Eagles win over Jacksonville. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For the game, Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards—71 rushing on 11 carries, four receptions for 14 yards and 62 yards on punt returns. Eagles’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said what Sproles did on offense and special teams is the reason why the Eagles signed him as a free-agent last spring.

“Those are the things he’s done for years and years,” Shurmur said. “His presence was felt in the kicking game and as a running back. We’ve said all year that he’s a running back and we’re going to play him at running back. He was running the very same plays that LeSean (McCoy) would run if he was in there. We saw the impact that he had on the game.”

Five plays after Sproles return, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz to bring the Birds to within 17-14 with 7:19 left in the third quarter.

Sproles’ big plays also pumped up an Eagles defense that gave up a couple of big plays in the passing game—a pair of touchdown passes from Chad Henne to wide receiver Allen Hurns. After allowing 17 points in the first half, the Eagles defense shutout Jacksonville in the second half.

“Once they got it going, everybody’s gotta feeling that we’re going in for the kill,” Jenkins said. “Now we’re starting to play our style of team play and that’s a good feeling.”

In the fourth quarter, the Birds tied the game on a 51-yard field goal by Cody Parkey and took the lead on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Foles to Jeremy Maclin. The Birds added another Parkey field goal and got a 17-yard touchdown return of a recovered fumble by defensive end Fletcher Cox.

Eagles Hope to Maintain Team Chemistry with Offseason Signings

7 Mar

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper will be with the Eagles for the next five years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper will be with the Eagles for the next five years. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Winning the NFC East and nearly beating the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs last season has convinced the Eagles that they are on the verge of being a really good team.

The priority for the Eagles front office this offseason is to keep the core group that they helped them get to the playoffs in 2013.  The Birds signings in the last week are an indication that they want to maintain the chemistry of the team that helped them to achieve a 10-6 record last season.

The Eagles gave contract extensions to All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and center Jason Kelce. They also signed wide receiver Riley Cooper to a five-year deal and they signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who missed all of last season with a right-knee injury, to a one-year deal that could turn into a multi-year deal. The Birds also signed defensive end Cedric Thornton to a one-year contract.

“It’s a great reflection on what we’re doing and it’s starts with the ownership and we got to give credit to Jeffrey (Lurie) for giving us the flexibility to go out and sign our guys and always giving us the resources to do what want to do,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “That’s very lucky in the National Football League. Part of it is the culture we’re trying build here and we gotta get better. I think the players see what we want to accomplish and they want to be a part of it.”

The odd man out in all the Eagles signings was wide receiver Jason Avant, who was released by the team after being with the team for eight years.

But Cooper’s emergence as a weapon in the Eagles offense and the potential of a relatively young Maclin made Avant expendable.  Cooper, who signed a five-year deal reportedly worth $25 million, is coming off a career year in which caught 47 passes for 847 yards and eight touchdowns.

In 2012, Maclin, who’s had two knee surgeries, led the team in receptions and has caught at least 50 passes in his first four years with the team.

“People like Riley because he brings some physical toughness to your football team. He can go up and get the football … For us, (Cooper) fits what we do,” Roseman said. “We’re excited to have Jeremy back. That was our goal when we started the offseason. We drafted him in the first round and we excited about seeing what he can do in this offense. He adds another weapon to this offense.”

The re-signings of Maclin and Cooper to go along with DeSean Jackson might give you the impression that the Birds have all the receivers they need.  After all, Jackson is coming off the best year of his career with 82 receptions for 1,332 years and nine touchdowns.

You can make an argument that the Birds receiving corps is full of two or three’s along with a Jackson who is more of 1-A type of receiver. I still think the Eagles need to find a big No.1 possession receiver via free agency or the draft that would fit with this team. Roseman said he’s not ruling out that possibility.

“It’s about value,” Roseman said. “It’s about value in free agency and then it’s about taking the best player available in the draft.  I wouldn’t take anything off the table. I wouldn’t put any absolutes on any position right now at this moment. We don’t want to be in a position where we see a really good value in free agency and we say, ‘No,” just because we might a particular depth chart at the moment. And that’s the same thing for the draft.”

The emergence of Nick Foles as the Eagles starting quarterback  and LeSean McCoy leading the NFL in rushing in 2013 was thanks in large part to the outstanding performance of the offensive line led by Peters, who went to his sixth Pro Bowl, and Kelce, who signed seven-year deal reportedly worth $37.5 million dollars.

“The offensive line, more than other position group, really relies on each other,” Kelce said. “It’s always a tight-knit group. We have a tight, close group of our guys in our room. I’m excited to work with not just the starter, but the guys we have in the wings waiting to get their chance.  I think we have a great group. … I think this offensive line is in a great position to be successful.”

In 2014, the Eagles schedule will not be easy with games against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers.  With the team showing a commitment to keeping last year’s team relatively intact, Kelce believes the Birds are on the cusp of being a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the NFC.

“I haven’t been this excited for a football season since I can remember,” Kelce said. “With the way we ended it, with the way it looks like it’s headed, the genuine enthusiasm that everyone has, it’s a good time to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”

Shady McCoy for MVP: Why Not?

11 Dec
Eagles running back Shady McCoy puts a move on Detroit Lions strong safety Glover Quin en route to a 41-yard touchdown run. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Shady McCoy puts a move on Detroit Lions strong safety Glover Quin en route to a 41-yard touchdown run. Photo by Webster Riddick.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—When all the balloting for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award is finally tabulated, it will probably be either Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning or perhaps even Tom Brady of the New England Patriots taking home the trophy as the league’s best player.

Meanwhile in the City of Brotherly Love, there’s a certain running back that is having a career year and would be in serious contention for league MVP honors if it weren’t for the outstanding years of the two aforementioned superstar signal-callers.  Considering his accomplishments this season, you would have to put LeSean “Shady” McCoy in the conversation.

“I’ll put him in it, I’ll vote for (McCoy),” said Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. “I don’t know who at running back is playing better than him. You got your quarterbacks, but I’ll vote him in as MVP this year.”

Suffice it to say, McCoy is not just having a good year, he’s having a career year. In week, he’s leading the NFL in rushing with 1,305 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry.

“I think he’s playing better than any running back in the NFL right now,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce.

McCoy will far exceed the 1,309 yards he gained last season and was the first back in the NFL to gain 1,000 yards this season. In fact, he is 208 yards away from breaking the Eagles single-season rushing record currently held by legendary Birds running back Wilbert Montgomery, who rushed for 1,512 yards in 1979.

“I’ve met him, he’s a cool guy and knows tons about football,” McCoy said. “That would be something big to break his record.”

Not only is he the game’s leading rusher this season, McCoy is also leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,744. To top it all off, Shady also has 40 receptions for 439 yards in the passing game.

Undoubtedly, McCoy’s best performance of this season came during last Sunday’s blizzard at Lincoln Financial Field where he stormed through the Detroit Lions defense for a team-record and career-best 217 yards. He scored on two long, spectacular touchdown runs in the fourth quarter that shifted the momentum of the game to the Eagles for good.

“When you watch the film, you know he’s an explosive runner, he’s talented, he can do a lot of things on his own,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “He can make a lot of people miss. He’s probably as good as there is in the league at making people miss in the open field. I was excited when I got here to get a chance to work with him.”

McCoy’s performance last week was compelling enough to have his jersey, cleats and gloves sent to Canton, Ohio to be on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the second Eagles player this season to receive such an honor. That other jersey on display was that of quarterback Nick Foles for his seven-touchdown performance last month against the Oakland Raiders.

“That’s something special, something that my son can see and like and look up to, give him a challenge to make it there,” McCoy said.

If you don’t think McCoy is good enough to warrant MVP consideration, you have to say that he’s one of the league’s best running backs. The numbers this season certainly say it, especially when you consider that he has more yards than guys like Minnesota Vikings ball carrier Adrian Peterson, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.

“I definitely think I’m in the top five or the top three,” McCoy said. “That’s what I feel like. They’re a lot of different guys.”

McCoy said while he has a lot in common with some of the league’s best backs, he believes that there are some things that set him apart from those other backs.

“I watch myself on tape and I would say vision, I’m very elusive,” McCoy said. “I’m a long distance guy and just hard to tackle.”

With his shifty side-to-side moves, McCoy doesn’t like the idea that some observers of the game see him only as a back with speed and good moves. He said his best runs have come attacking the heart of the defense by moving straight ahead.

“A lot people think I’m a side-to-side guy, but if you really watch me that’s really not me,” McCoy said. “All of my best plays are up the middle.”

All of the attention surrounding Foles’ rise to prominence with his outstanding play has slightly obscured what McCoy has done this season. You might even argue that McCoy is not even the MVP on his team considering how well Foles has played this season.

If there’s one thing that could possibly put McCoy in the conversation for MVP,  the Eagles (8-5) have to keep winning. The first-place Birds seem to have a clear path to the NFC East crown with three games left including this Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. They are one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

“He’s playing really well. I hope he gets it,” said Eagles tight end Brent Celek. “Our goal is to win games and whatever happens, happens.”