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Winning the lottery. Dating a supermodel. Trent Richardson rushing for more than three yards. Star players being exchanged via trade in the NFL. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, things that don’t happen very often.
Especially the third one. I mean, seriously.
March came in like a lion on Tuesday night, as Adam Schefter reported a trade. A rare, straight up deal in the NFL, as the Buffalo Bills swapped their stud linebacker Kiko Alonso for All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. I kid you not, I dropped my phone once I saw the news. McCoy’s future with the Eagles has been getting murkier and murkier, and since he wouldn’t take a pay cut, Philadelphia decided to part ways with him, getting a familiar face for head coach Chip Kelly. Alonso played under Kelly at the university of Oregon, and his arrival will make it nine former Ducks to play for Philly. Alonso had a dominant rookie season in 2013, recording 159 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions, and the legend of Kiko Alonso was born. Of course, he suffered a torn ACL during the preseason last year, ending his season early. But when he’s right, he’s very, very good.
According to Pro Football Focus, since 2013, only Derrick Johnson has a better pass-coverage rating than Alonso, who is also an aggressive tackler who has a great first step. The Eagles will fall in love with this guy immediately, and because of how putrid their secondary is, having someone who can actually cover should be exciting. Most importantly, however, this move, as well as the other cuts they made today, frees up nearly $32 million dollars in cap space, allowing them to target sought after free agents such as Byron Maxwell, Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty.
Sure. Eagles fans are going to miss the heck out of McCoy. Over the last five seasons, no running back in football has accumulated more rushing yards (6,155), while he ranks third in carries (1,306) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (40). He leaves Philadelphia as the team’s leading rusher, as well as one of the best fantasy running backs during his tenure.
Of course, we saw McCoy have arguably his worst season as a pro, posting the worst YPC of his career (4.2), as well as a career-worst 28 receptions. He failed to finish as a top-10 fantasy back, and a lot of it had to do with the Eagles banged up offensive line. Lane Johnson was out for the first four weeks of last season, and during that span, McCoy averaged under 50 yards per game, averaging just 2.8 yards per clip. However, the rest of the way, he averaged 94 rushing yards per game, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The offensive line was a revolving door in Philadelphia, as they saw nine different linemen see at least 100 snaps last year, according to ESPN Stats and Info. But at the same token, it wasn’t all on the line.
McCoy seemed to go for the home run on every play, bouncing around too much and not taking what defenses were giving him. Of course, he had his moments where he resembled the great Barry Sanders, but at season’s end, his elusive rating (via PFF) wasn’t anything to write home about, ranking 17th in the NFL in elusive rating (28.9).
Philadelphia saw McCoy as expendable. Buffalo did not.
The Fit With Buffalo
It’s not a sexy, read-option, pistol offense, but McCoy isn’t a bad fit in the Bills’ system at all.
Of course, we saw McCoy have arguably his worst season as a pro, posting the worst YPC of his career (4.2), as well as a career-worst 28 receptions. He failed to finish as a top-10 fantasy back, but still managed to rush for a strong 1,319 yards, good for the third-most in the league. Sure, McCoy entered the league young, and has plenty of usage, but is still only 26-years old, and remains one of the most purely talented backs in the league. There were many times last year where the Eagles forgot that, as Darren Sproles and Chris Polk were often featured in the offense. He only saw 50 percent of the team’s rushing attempts from the goal line, and owners were frustrated when Polk would cross the goal line instead of him. The Bills may give Fred Jackson that same role, who is one of the better short-yardage backs in the league, but McCoy should see a ton of carries in this Rex Ryan/Greg Roman system. In Ryan’s final three seasons with the Jets, his offenses averaged almost 32 rushes per game, a very healthy number. And in Roman’s four seasons with the 49ers, an aging Frank Gore ranked 5th, 12th, 8th and 8th in carries each season. Volume should be there on the ground, but don’t expect McCoy to return to the 50-catch days of old.
Jackson is one of the better pass-catching backs in the game, hauling in 113 balls over the last two years. And, as Dave Richard of CBS points out in his offensive coordinator preview, backs in Roman’s offenses aren’t used to catch passes a whole lot. Richard states that running backs recorded less than 20 percent 49ers’ total receptions during his four seasons with San Francisco. The more I think about it, the more I see McCoy being used similarly to last year. Of course, Buffalo won’t be running 70 plays per game like the Eagles did last season, but this is a good defense that can get off the field, as well as a head coach and coordinator who want to run the football. I just hope Buffalo addresses the offensive line before the season starts, as their run-blocking unit ranked dead-last according to PFF. There’s a slight downgrade in terms of fantasy value heading into next year, but I’m not jumping ship. Am I drafting him in the first round? No. I wasn’t going to anyways. But, again, I’m not panicking or anything along those lines.
But as a Buffalo Bills fan, I have just one final question…
Can McCoy play quarterback?
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