Sunday, February 14, 2016

How McCoy stacks up as a receiver

How Eagles running back LeSean McCoy performs in the passing game will play a determining factor in how successful his career is. How did McCoy perform last year as a rookie? We take a look.

How McCoy stacks up as a receiver

How did LeSean McCoy perform in the passing game as a rookie? (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)
How did LeSean McCoy perform in the passing game as a rookie? (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

First off, thanks for all the congratulations comments in my last post. Now, who can tell me where in the Philadelphia area I can tie the knot without breaking the bank?

C'mon people. I need you here.

And second of all, Happy Memorial Day, especially to those who have served - or are serving - this country. I love hearing from those of you serving overseas in our Eagles and Phillies chats.

As for the post, let's talk about LeSean McCoy. And particularly, McCoy as a receiver.

When the Birds drafted him out of Pitt in 2009, we heard plenty about how much they liked McCoy as a pass-catcher. And we heard a lot about how he was an unknown as a blocker.

Today, I examine the first part.

McCoy caught 40 balls for 308 yards as a rookie, averaging 7.7 yards per catch. He had two receptions of 20 yards or more.

He was tied for 17th among running backs in terms of receptions, and 17th in yards. Here's a chart with the backs who had better numbers:

  Receptions Yards Yards per catch Catches of 20+
Ray Rice 78 702 9.0 7
Tim Hightower 63 428 6.8 2
Matt Forte 57 471 8.3 6
Maurice Jones-Drew 53 374 7.1 0
Frank Gore 52 406 7.8 3
Joseph Addai 51 336 6.6 1
Steven Jackson 51 322 6.3 3
Chris Johnson 50 503 10.1 3
Reggie Bush 47 335 7.1 3
Fred Jackson 46 371 8.1 1
Darren Sproles 45 497 11.0 7
Steve Slaton 44 417 9.5 5
Chester Taylor 44 389 8.8 5
Adrian Peterson 43 436 10.1 5
Justin Forsett 41 350 8.5 2
Kevin Smith 41 415 10.1 3
Jamaal Charles 40 297 7.4 3
LeSean McCoy 40 308 7.7 2

Some notes on the numbers:

Several, although not all, names on the above list saw more action than McCoy, who shared the workload with Brian Westbrook and Leonard Weaver last season.

* McCoy is the only rookie on the list. In other words, he led all rookie running backs in receptions and yards last season.

* Those last two columns are probably more important than the first two when talking about McCoy.  It's huge for the Eagles to have a running back who can catch a screen or dump-off from Kevin Kolb and turn it into a big play, especially considering the talent this team has at its other skill positions.

Of the 18 players on the list, only six averaged fewer yards per reception thatn McCoy. The average yards per reception was 8.91. McCoy was at 7.7.

* Brian Westbrook
really set the bar high with his performance as a receiver from 2004-2007. Check out the chart below, and pay special attention to the last two columns.

  Catches Yards Yds./catch 20+
2004 73 703 9.6 7
2005 61 616 10.1 6
2006 77 699 9.1 9
2007 90 771 8.6 7

That number in 2006 of nine catches of 20 yards or more is pretty incredible. Think about if you could count on your back to have a big play in the passing game like that in more than half your games. Huge weapon.

Westbrook's yards per catch dropped to 7.4 and 7.2 in his final two seasons here, and he had a total of five catches of 20 yards or more in 2008 and 2009.

I firmly believe that McCoy's success as a receiver will be a big part of how successful he is overall. It'll be interesting to see how much he can improve in the passing game in his second year.

There are several factors at play. Part of it is continuing to get adjusted to the NFL game. Another part is understanding when to go out in his routes and when to stay in to block. Plus there's the issue of how Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg use him - split out wide as a receiver, etc. And finally, how he works with the offensive line, how those guys perform blocking at the next level, and how the wide receivers and tight ends perform as blockers downfield.

Just another thing to keep an eye on at OTAs, at Lehigh and during next season.

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Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for 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 or by clicking here

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