By Kevin McGuire
Last year’s surprise season in Chip Kelly’s NFL debut ended with a disappointing home loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card. Following the first full offseason of the Kelly era, the Eagles enter the 2014 season as the likely team to beat in the NFC East, giving this team its first real dose of having to play as the favorite. The Eagles enjoyed a string of successful seasons under Andy Reid, highlighted by a trip to the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history, but this crop of Eagles have yet to enjoy that same level of success. One Eagles player who is no stranger to setting the bar high for himself and performing on the field to clear it is running back LeSean Mccoy.
This particular offseason has seen McCoy become a bit more vocal and confident. Ask him whom the best running back in the NFL is and McCoy will be quick to say his own name. That is why McCoy is preparing for a big year to prove his worth on the field against players like Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
“I don’t challenge him. I think he challenges himself,” Kelly said when speaking with the media Tuesday, per PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “I think he has standards and goals and aspirations that he wants to achieve, and he understands that the way he’s going to achieve them is that he does have a unique ability that the goals and aspirations that he has, they are attainable.”
McCoy has been regarded as one of the top offensive players in the NFL, and for good reason. Last year saw McCoy flourish in Kelly’s offense, which was expected to be the case. Last season McCoy led the NFL with 1,607 rushing yards, nearly 300 more yards than the league’s second-leading rusher (Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears). This season, with the Eagles letting DeSean Jackson walk to a new team and the dependability of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin fair to question, McCoy figures to be the focus of the Eagles offense in 2014, starting with the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Given how poor the Jaguars were against the run last season – Jacksonville ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing defense by allowing 2,108 rushing yards – McCoy should be able to get off to a great start on the ground this season.
“I think he realizes this is the prime part of his career,” Kelly said Tuesday, again as transcribed by PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “He’s no longer a young player and he’s in the meat of his career right now and he’d better take full advantage of it so that he doesn’t be a woulda, coulda, shoulda guy and look back on it and say, there’s a short window sometimes for running backs and he’s right in the middle of it right now and I think he’s taking full advantage of it.”
The Eagles would be wise to take full advantage of everything McCoy has to offer in Sunday’s season opener.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.