Posted May 22, 2012

Huddle Up: How do Eagles plan to cut LeSean McCoy’s workload?

Philadelphia Eagles

LeSean McCoy has averaged 240 carries the last two seasons for the Eagles. (Carlos M. Saavedra/SI)

Throughout the NFL’s lengthy offseason, “Huddle Up” will provide you with a daily quick take on an important story or development from around the league …

Peter King addressed LeSean McCoy’s hefty five-year, $35 million contract extension in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback. King wrote that the “risk, obviously, is McCoy’s age” (he’ll be 25 by the start of the 2013 season), but added “but I don’t see how, unless there’s a disastrous injury, this deal isn’t a good one for the Eagles.”

And that’s where Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg comes in.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said after the draft in April that the team would like to reduce McCoy’s wear and tear in 2012, and Mornhinweg reiterated that stance as Philadelphia prepared for its first round of OTAs this week.

“I would like to keep him healthy for a long career,” Mornhinweg told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane. “That’s certainly part of it — using him the right way and in an efficient way.”

Here’s the conundrum, though: The Eagles have yet to find another running back they can trust when McCoy is off the field.

Last season, McCoy played 894 snaps, 49 more than any other running back in the league (Ray Rice, 845), and that’s despite sitting out Philadelphia’s Week 17 win over Washington. McCoy and Rice were the only two backs to top the 800-snap barrier, with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Cedric Benson and Michael Turner — players who were more or less healthy all season — not even getting to 600 snaps.

McCoy had the ball in his hands for 321 of those plays (273 carries, 48 receptions). Philadelphia’s other backs had 72 combined rushing attempts, 18 of those coming with McCoy on the sideline in Week 17. And the Eagles’ second leading rusher from last season, Ronnie Brown, is no longer around.

So, again, how exactly is Mornhinweg supposed to spell McCoy?

The answer may come from Chris Polk, the former University of Washington star, who unexpectedly slipped through the draft and later signed with Philadelphia. Polk’s precipitous drop was set off, in part, by injury concerns, mainly over his shoulder (which he had surgery on last year).

The only other running back Philadelphia has added so far this offseason is Bryce Brown, a once highly-touted college recruit who sabotaged his own career with questionable off-field decisions. The Eagles took him in Round 7 of this year’s draft.

It’s hard to say exactly how the backup RB position battle will shake out, but the Eagles definitely did not show much faith in Lewis last season. He saw the field for just 42 snaps, and only 19 prior to Week 17.

McCoy is equally adept in run and pass situations, so even figuring out when to get him off the field for a play or two is a head-scratcher for Mornhinweg. Seeing some potential from Lewis, Brown, Polk or Graig Cooper in one of those areas would make his job a lot easier.

Polk knows what McCoy is going through. He averaged nearly 260 rushing attempts per game over his final three seasons at Washington, plus caught 78 passes in that time.

That heavy workload was another reason Polk flopped on draft weekend — an NFL back’s shelf life is short enough without coming into the league having accumulated that many miles. The proven durability and production, however, might make him the ideal No. 2 back in Philadelphia.

While Lewis failed to make the leap in his rookie year, Polk should get every opportunity to prove his worth.

The Eagles would no doubt feel better with a strong preseason from at least one of their backup backs. The success of McCoy’s long-term extension depends on someone stepping up, so McCoy can cool down.

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  1. [...] couple weeks back on Audibles, the topic of LeSean McCoy’s workload came up. The Eagles would love to cut back on the league-high 894 snaps McCoy played in 2011, [...]