Training camp at St. John Fisher College is just entering its second week and eager fans have been watching how the new weapons the team acquired in the offseason are acclimating to each other.
One of those key additions was running back LeSean McCoy, who the Buffalo Bills acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. At this stage it’s too early to tell how McCoy will gel with his blockers up front, but with the season about to start, I charted McCoy’s production based on running lanes for the past two seasons to see where there might be bright, and trouble, spots heading into this season.
2013(attempts-yards-touchdowns) *Lead the NFL in Rushing*
Based off the charts, McCoy does not appear to be a fan of running behind his guards. This was one thing Philadelphia Eagles coach Kelly didn’t like when he himself admitted that the Eagles were looking for “a down-hill, one-cut runner” for their zone-scheme.
What McCoy is very good at is creating yards along the tackles and up the middle. Rushes up the middle were McCoy’s favorite lane to exploit, and the majority of his yards came from outside the end positions in both 2013 and 2014.
Where he fails is when the guards are overwhelmed and the penetration comes from the middle of the line. Last year McCoy was the most tackled running back behind the line of scrimmage.
For Bills fans, that should cause worry and sound familiar. Former Bills running back CJ Spiller was a burner along and outside the tackles, but often struggled running in-between the tackles. McCoy is a better and more willing running back up the middle than Spiller, but both beat defenses with their speed and shiftiness.
To the Bills credit, they identified this problem from last year, and will try to solve it with new guards Richie Incognito and rookie third-round draft pick, John Miller. There’s potential for second-year man Cyril Richardson to develop at the left guard position, but Incognito has already been named the starter and Miller is taking first team reps in camp.
Another way the Bills are trying to help McCoy was signing free agent fullback Jerome Felton from the Minnesota Vikings. Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson was able to enjoy some of his best years with Felton leading the way. For the Bills the hope is that Felton will help sure up any missed blocks from the guards, and help create wider holes for McCoy to spring through.
For the ground and pound scheme to work then Incognito, Miller, and Felton will have to make big contributions as blockers, with Eric Wood being his normal sturdy self at center, to spring open the necessary space for McCoy’s talent to truly flourish. If the pieces fall into place correctly then fans should expected to see the 2013 version of LeSean McCoy leading the Bills offensive charge this season.