What LeSean McCoy still needs to learn

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy turns 24 in July. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Ted Williams has been an Eagles assistant coach since 1995 and, truth be told, I cannot remember ever having a conversation with him that was longer than “how-ya-doing?” Or, “hot-enough-for-ya?” It is because Andy Reid did not allow his position coaches to speak to reporters, except under certain circumstances, until the NFL changed the rules and called for more access to assistants league-wide. All of which led to a half-hour availability on Monday afternoon — and this column.

Williams has groomed and improved a great series of backs for the Eagles: Ricky Watters, Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and now LeSean McCoy. Williams talks about all of them like a proud teacher, and when he talks about McCoy, he quickly highlights the next step in McCoy’s development.

It is this conundrum: on the one hand, his ability to change direction, sometimes at the last fraction of a second, marks him as a special player and a home run hitter and got him the big new contract he signed last week; on the other hand, there are plays where you wish he would just take what was there and stop with the dancing that can lead to negative plays, too.

“The toughest thing for a guy to realize in the NFL...is dealing with what happens to you when the other guy is good,” Williams said. “Because in college, if you’re better than them, you’re better than them most of the time. That doesn’t change. But at this level, you might get to Game 10 and everybody’s better than you -- and having, mentally, to walk out there and say, ‘I’m going to take zero yards. I’m going to take 1 yard. Because these guys are better. And we have to keep pounding it until we get it right.’ I think that’s the part of his game that he’s got to grow into, just realizing that there are going to be days when it doesn’t go well. You just have to fight through it.”

So there are times, then, when you are like the rest of is, watching a play and wishing McCoy would just hit it up in there and take what’s there?

“We talk about those things,” Williams said. “The really good running backs are willing to take zero. When you’re young, you think you can make a big play out of every play. That’s kind of where he is. He’s not, per se, not willing to run it up in there -- he just thinks he can make a play out of every play. There are time when that doesn’t happen. It’s my job to make sure he understands there are going to be days where that ain’t going to happen, where you’re not going to outrun ‘em all, you’re not going to fake ‘em all out, they’re not all going to miss you. What are you going to do then? We talk about that constantly.”

Why does Shady do it?

“Because he can, he thinks he can all the time,” Williams said.

Still, the coach acknowledged that the Dallas Cowboys, for instance, adapted and took away the cutback lanes in the second game between the teams last year. Other teams, too, will adapt.

“You heard that statement, ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’?” Williams said. “Well, it’s even heavier if you get it too soon. You need to understand that he’s worked hard for his success and it came fast, faster than most. Now, the toughest thing is to stay there.”