Since there are so many running backs with so many different styles playing today, it’s hard to determine one back who is the “best running back” in the NFL. Some analysts prefer the power and straight-ahead nature of Adrian Peterson, while others prefer the quickness and versatility of Arian Foster.
Maybe this is because I have been a lifelong Eagles fan who has grown up in the Andy Reid era, but I have always agreed more with the latter argument. Obviously, I wouldn’t complain if I had Peterson on my team, as he truly is a great running back. But, I’ve always liked the guy who was a little smaller, but a little quicker and more versatile, ala Brian Westbrook. Granted, it’s easy to love Westbrook for all the wonderful things he did for this organization, but I am just using his type of player to make a point.
Other players in his type of mold are Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes, and LaDanian Tomlinson. I loved all of these players while they were at their peak, and I was always drawn to the guy who could run for 50-75 yards and catch 6 or 7 balls.
At this point of his young career, I believe LeSean “Shady” McCoy has a legitimate argument as being the best of this “dual-threat” style of running back in football. It’s absolutely scary that this kid is only 22 years old and is the youngest player on the Eagles roster.
I already know what you’re going to say, so save your breath. Foster is having an absolutely fantastic season both running and catching the football, and if his team was playing better around him, he’d be a leading candidate for MVP of the league. I cannot argue that. But, I’d argue that if it wasn’t for Michael Vick being on the same team, Shady would have a legitimate case in the MVP discussion, too. Ultimately, McCoy will be overlooked due to Vick’s emergence, but he has played so well this year and it has gone relatively unnoticed by anyone outside of Philadelphia.
McCoy already has 1,357 total yards from scrimmage, which puts him on pace for a very Westbrook-esque 1,809 for a full season.
He is so quick laterally that he makes defenders look plain stupid in the open field. When he went up against the best running back in football this year, he rose to the occasion with 130 total yards against Foster and his Texans, while Foster ended with 109 total yards on 10 more carries, but 6 fewer receptions.
They both had very good games, but McCoy’s explosiveness proved impossible for Houston to handle. Yes, Foster did have 2 touchdowns and he broke off a 29 yard run, but McCoy had 2 touchdowns of his own to match him. He also caught a 40 yard screen pass that displayed every last one of his talents, from vision to quickness to speed. To the naked eye, he just looked and felt like the more dangerous back all night.
I have the same feeling watching McCoy that I had while watching Westbrook at his peak, and I don’t say that lightly. Brian Westbrook is one of the best running backs this franchise has ever seen, and McCoy looks like Westbrook in his prime in just his 2nd season.
I would argue he even has similar, yet superior, open-field skills and smarts that made Westbrook a top 5 back in the league while he was with the Eagles. He’s never going to be a guy who runs it between the tackles 25-30 times per game like Peterson (although that’s not his fault, as we all know), but he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and he makes an impact in the passing game that not many backs in the league can match.
He has a chance to take it to the house every single time he touches the ball (the Eagles seem to have a few of those guys, don’t they?), and he is making defensive coordinators plan for him just the same as DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
If you don’t think he’s the best “dual-threat” back in football, that’s fine. You can have Arian Foster or Jamaal Charles. I’ll take Shady, kick back, and enjoy the show.