JEFF WEACHTER sounds like a parent sometimes when he talks about LeSean McCoy, biased and proud and hopeful and the rest. Weachter sounds like a football coach sometimes when he talks about the Eagles' second-round draft choice, too, cold and clinical and sharp-eyed and unforgiving.
Weachter coached McCoy at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg. McDevitt also produced Ricky Watters, back when. Weachter did not coach Watters, but he is like the rest of us, interested in the comparisons between the two running backs. Weachter says he has a witness.
"My defensive coordinator was there when Ricky played," Weachter said. "He told me that at the end of LeSean's junior year, he was better than Ricky as a senior."
McCoy, even from the second round, might just be the Eagles' most important draft choice. Because while wide receiver Jeremy Maclin arrives wrapped in bold paper and shiny ribbons, the offensive toy that no one expected, McCoy is the present everybody around here really wanted all along. He is the running back who will grow up behind Brian Westbrook. Given the way running backs go down in the NFL, he could very well need to grow up quickly.
The rest of us only know McCoy from Pitt games on television. Weachter has known him since McCoy was a little kid, having first coached LeSean's brother LeRon (who had a brief NFL career as well). What follows will mostly be Weachter's voice. Again, you will hear what borders on familial pride and you also will hear the honesty that only people in his profession understand, people whose eyeballs bleed from watching video.
McCoy's mother is credited with giving LeSean the nickname "Shady." His old coach uses it all the time. We start with McCoy's age, 20.
"It's the only thing I worry about, and I've talked to Shady about this," Weachter said. "I talked to somebody from the Eagles about a month ago and I felt good about it. But even with a year of prep school, he should have been a year behind. He doesn't even turn 21 until July. Being close to Harrisburg worries you a little bit, with all of the people who will be contacting him. But he has a good head on his shoulders. He's not much of a partier. His only problem is saying no to people sometimes.
"But I've known him since he was 8 years old. His brother played for me. He stayed at my house. He's a good kid . . . After he visited the Eagles [before the draft], he said to me, 'Do you want my Pitt jersey or my Eagles jersey?' "
Westbrook's name comes up all the time during the conversation. Weachter thinks it is a fair stylistic comparison. But we circle around and come back to the age again, and how McCoy is like many newly drafted NFL players, still an unfinished physical product.
"He's worked out 6 days a week since ninth grade, and I don't know what he was doing at Pitt, but he should be bigger," Weachter said. "He might be 206 or 207 now. He should be able to fill out to about 215 pounds and keep his speed.
"I saw [NFL Network analyst Mike] Mayock say he doesn't have long speed. That's bullbleep. We've worked out at Pitt with my [high school] team and the turf there is really spongy. All I know is, LeSean's brother LeRon ran a 4.38 [in the] 40 and LeSean is faster. In California, he ran a 4.3 . . .
"He has everything you need," he said. "He has great vision. His acceleration out of his cuts is unbelievable. He has great hands and he's a very good route runner. I'm shocked they didn't split him out at Pitt because I know they practiced it. It might have been because of quarterback issues, I don't know. But he can do it, like Westbrook."
One of the things that McCoy absolutely, positively will have to be able to do is run between the tackles. It is a fair question, whether he can. Westbrook can do it - and when he can't do it, he has this uncanny leaping ability near the goal line. If he were to get hurt, they would need McCoy to be able to do it, too - unless the thought would be fullback Leonard Weaver inside the 5-yard line.
Anyway, inside running?
"He's an inside runner," Weachter said. "I watched him last year and I asked him, 'Shady, what's this with bouncing out?' He said that [Pitt coach Dave] Wannstedt got in his head about some longer runs, so he bounced more of them outside. But he's an inside runner. You'll see . . .
"The thing he needs to get better at is pass-protecting. But he is physical. He's not afraid of contact. And I've talked to him about it. If he doesn't pick it up, he's not going to see the field and he knows it."
There is plenty to like. There are things to work on. There are significant hopes. There are significant imperatives. McCoy needs to be a player. The Eagles cannot afford to allow him to fail.
"I know a lot of NFL people, assistant coaches and scouts," Weachter said. "What most of them said was that [Knowshon] Moreno and [Chris 'Beanie'] Wells were the players who were ready right now to be the man. They thought that Shady was a good fit for a team that had an established running back in place. But they thought that when his body is ready, Shady will end up being the best player when all is said and done."
You wonder if this was the pride talking or the coach talking. It is what you do about all of these draft choices now, wonder. *
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