PHILADELPHIA — The threat of LeSean McCoy running the ball has helped the Philadelphia Eagles more than him actually carrying it.
McCoy is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry in the first three games, but the Eagles are 3-0 and Nick Foles leads the NFL in yards passing with 978. So, the All-Pro running back McCoy isn’t complaining, even though he certainly won’t fulfill his goal of 2,000 yards rushing at this rate.
“I can’t be selfish,” McCoy said. “We’re winning games, and that’s what’s most important. If I’m (mad) that we’re not running the ball enough but we’re winning, what does that look like? Deep down, I want to win. I really do.”
McCoy had his worst game since his rookie year in a 37-34 win over Washington last Sunday. He ran for just 22 yards on 19 carries and had no catches. But the Redskins stacked the defense to stop the run and that opened up the passing game for Foles.
McCoy had 74 yards on 21 carries against Jacksonville in Week 1 and 79 yards on 20 carries at Indianapolis the following game. He has only one touchdown. Last season, the defending NFL rushing champion had 395 yards rushing, 119 receiving and four TDs in the first three games. But, the Eagles were 1-2.
“I’m a competitor. It can get frustrating because you want to do what you’re used to,” McCoy said. “That’s why the defense is playing like that. It’s kind of a respect thing, but still you want to go out there and dominate. But on the other end, we’re making plays.
“You see on the play-fakes how they’re all stepping up and our guys are getting past them,” he said. “So even though you want go out there and play your best, and put up the stats up and do all the great things in the run, we’re winning games and that’s what’s important.”
Because McCoy is in the backfield, defenders are susceptible to play-action fakes. Foles has picked the opponents’ secondary apart so far, completing 61 percent of his passes for an average of 326 yards per game. The Eagles have scored at least 30 points in each win.
“One thing I know about LeSean and everybody loves, is he wants to win,” coach Chip Kelly said.
Part of the problem in the running game is the offensive line has been decimated by injuries. All-Pro guard Evan Mathis went down in the season opener. Center Jason Kelce was hurt last week. Right tackle Lane Johnson is serving the final game of a suspension. Backup right tackle Allen Barbre sustained a season-ending injury in the first game.
All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters will be the only starting lineman starting at the same position from last week when the Eagles visit San Francisco (1-2) on Sunday.
“Obviously the same five guys blocking for him is part of it,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to do a better job in the run game just overall, but I think he’s excited that we’re 3-0. Sometimes they come in bunches and you can string a couple games back to back.”
Darren Sproles has found more running space than McCoy when he gets the ball. Sproles has 117 yards rushing, two TDs and an average of 6.9 per carry. But 49 of his yards came on one TD run.
It won’t be easy for either back against the 49ers. They’re ranked seventh in run defense, giving up 85.7 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.
“If teams want to come in and try to stop the run, if they want to get 34 points scored on them and Nick’s playing at a high level and making plays, that’s how you lose,” McCoy said. “We’re throwing the ball well. As long as we can get them to start playing the guessing game, whether it’s on the run or the pass, we’ll be fine.”