Should the Philadelphia Eagles Be Concerned About LeSean McCoy's Blocking?

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Should the Philadelphia Eagles Be Concerned About LeSean McCoy's Blocking?
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There are plenty of players on the Eagles who deserve blame for last Sunday's humiliating loss to the Arizona Cardinals, including quarterback Michael Vick and the offensive line.

It is apparent to anyone who has kept up with the Eagles this season that Demetress Bell was a tremendous bust of a signing and his porous pass blocking made it difficult for Vick to establish any rhythm at all.

But Bell wasn't the only one to blame for the poor blocking. Other than Bell's poor play and Dallas Reynolds' inexperience, have Eagles fans considered the role LeSean McCoy played in the Eagles' first loss of the season?

On the surface, it appears that McCoy played well. He averaged over five yards per carry and did not turn the ball over. When he caught the ball, he was effective after the catch. From a fantasy standpoint, McCoy was great.

But a look at the game tape shows more. McCoy's blocking was poor. And it wasn't just bad, it failed in crucial situations when the offense was counting on him.

The play that jumps out to most who watched the game is the play that ended the half, and perhaps the game. With only a handful of seconds remaining, Andy Reid made the decision to take one last shot into the end zone, only to have Vick blindsided and fumble the ball. The fumble was returned for six points and gave Arizona a seemingly insurmountable lead at 24-0. 

Who was to blame for that play? Some would say Vick. As the quarterback, perhaps he should have recognized the blitz and made an adjustment. Or at the very least, being in a short pass situation, he should have released the ball sooner. 

McCoy failed to make the right read and did not block his assignment on the fumble before halftime, allowing Vick to be blindsided.

 

However, interviews with players after the game would reveal that it was McCoy's assignment to block that blitzing defender. McCoy instead attempted to block James Sanders, who was Brent Celek's assignment. This left Kerry Rhodes entirely unchallenged and he was able to deliver a vicious hit, knocking the ball loose.

Well, maybe it was just one isolated mistake. Accidents happen, right?

Actually, McCoy continued to be a liability in pass protection all game long.

While the score was 24-0 at halftime, there was still an entire two quarters left to play. The Eagles have come back from greater odds in the past to win games (any new Eagles fans should Google Miracle at the New Meadowlands). But McCoy's poor blocking came in many crucial situations which slowed the offense's momentum.

In the second half, the Eagles defense tightened up and did not allow Arizona to score for the entire third quarter. The Eagles managed a field goal to cut the deficit to within three touchdowns. And on a drive with 0:15 left in the third quarter, the Eagles found themselves at 3rd-and-5 at the Cardinals' 22 yard line in a must-convert situation, but also the momentum and field position to score.

But then, McCoy failed to pick up the blitz again and Kerry Rhodes once again got a free shot at Vick. In this instance, Vick bailed out his running back with a spectacular move but had no choice but to throw the ball away as more Cardinals began closing in. Reid then made the questionable decision to kick the field goal despite needing three touchdowns to tie the game.

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Perhaps they were just isolated plays and, in McCoy's defense, the Cardinals defense is arguably one of the best in the league. But all game long, McCoy looked like he was struggling to both diagnose the blitz and to effectively fend it off. 

The Eagles had concerns at the end of Brian Westbrook's career with the Eagles as to whether any of his successors could pick up the blitz as well as Westbrook did. McCoy has perhaps become every bit as effective of a rusher that Westbrook was, but he still struggles at times in pass protection.

McCoy may be the unanimous best player on the offense, perhaps even the best player on the team. But he needs to step up in key moments when his team needs him to, not just as a runner, but by picking up the blitz effectively.

If not, then perhaps Marty Mornhinweg should devise more plays for McCoy as a receiver in passing situations. But if he is to continue to be assigned to picking up the blitz, he must improve in that area, especially when the team desperately needs a first down.

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