Sunday, August 30, 2015

The comparison: McCoy vs. Westbrook

Back in December, after a game in which LeSean McCoy caught eight balls for 86 yards against the Texans, I took a look at how the second-year back compared to the man who showed him the ropes in the NFL, Brian Westbrook.

The comparison: McCoy vs. Westbrook

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LeSean McCoy average 5.2 yards per carry during the 2010 season. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
LeSean McCoy average 5.2 yards per carry during the 2010 season. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Back in December, after a game in which LeSean McCoy caught eight balls for 86 yards against the Texans, I took a look at how the second-year back compared to the man who showed him the ropes in the NFL, Brian Westbrook.

From 2004 to 2008, Westbrook proved to be the perfect running back for Andy Reid's system. He could run the ball, catch the ball, pick up the blitz, and do damage as a return man.

In his second NFL season, McCoy proved capable of doing many of the same things.

So now that the 2010 season is in our rearview mirror, let's revisit the comparison.

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Westbrook's most productive seasons as a pro were 2006 and 2007. It doesn't make sense to compare McCoy's second season to Westbrook's second season because Westbrook had a much lesser role in the offense that year. In other words, I'm comparing McCoy's 2010 to Westbrook's best seasons.

Here are the rushing numbers:

  Att. Yds. YPC TDs 20+ % 20+
'06 Westbrook 240 1,217 5.1 7 8 3.33%
'07 Westbrook 278 1,333 4.8 7 11 3.96%
2010 McCoy 207 1,080 5.2 7 7 3.38%

The first four columns are self-explanatory. The final column is percentage of carries that went for 20+ yards.

McCoy didn't carry the ball as much as Westbrook did in 2006 or 2007, but his yards per carry was slightly higher at 5.2. McCoy's 1,080 rushing yards last season ranked 14th in the NFL. Of the top-15 rushers, none had fewer attempts than McCoy (207). And only three - Jamaal Charles (230) and Darren McFadden (223) and Matt Forte (237) - had fewer than 250 carries.

The touchdowns are the same across the board. Westbrook had more 20+ yard plays in both '06 and '07, but percentage better gauges how likely each back was to break one on any given carry. Westbrook's '07 mark was the best, but McCoy was slightly better than Westbrook in '06.

Of course, rushing numbers don't tell the whole story with either back. Here's how they compare as receivers:

  Rec. Yds. YPC TDs 20+ % 20+
'06 Westbrook 77 699 9.1 4 9 11.7%
'07 Westbrook 90 771 8.6 5 7 7.78%
2010 McCoy 78 592 7.6 2 6 7.69%

Westbrook was more productive as a receiver. In '06, he averaged 1.5 more yards per reception and picked up 20 yards or more once every 8.55 catches.

While McCoy led all running backs with 78 catches last year, his yards per reception didn't quite stack up to some of his pass-catching peers. Arian Foster averaged 9.2; Ray Rice 8.8; Darren Sproles 8.8; and Jahvid Best 8.4. Part of that has to do with defenses being better prepared to stop the Eagles' screen game later in the season.

The one factor that I don't have the numbers to measure is blocking/blitz pickup. McCoy has shown great improvement in that area, but he's not yet on Westbrook's level.

Overall, McCoy's 2010 season wasn't quite as good as Westbrook's '06 or '07, but the fact that there's even a discussion, considering McCoy has not yet celebrated his 23rd birthday, should be telling.

Westbrook was 27 at the start of 2006, entering his fifth season with 496 carries under his belt. McCoy's integration into the Eagles' offense has been more immediate. He'll be entering his third season having had 362 carries.

If McCoy continues to build on his first two seasons, we'll likely be revisiting this comparison many more times, eventually comparing careers, not just invidivual seasons. But he obviously has a lot of work to do.

OH, AND ONE MORE THING

This doesn't fit neatly into the comparison above, but I came across a post by Aaron Schatz over at Football Outsiders that had another McCoy note.

Schatz look at all 26 backs who had at least 750 yards rushing last year and evaluated how each performed against 4-3 defenses, compared to 3-4 defenses.

It may come as a bit of a surprise that McCoy was actually better against 3-4s, averaging 5.82 yards per carry, compared to 5.01 against 4-3s. Of the 26 running backs Schatz looked at, only Brandon Jacobs had a better YPC (6.35) against 3-4s.


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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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