LeSean McCoy Nicknamed Shady By His Mom, There was nothing shady about the Eagles’ offensive game plan last Sunday. Coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg doggedly stuck with the running game against the New York Giants, even when it appeared there would be no holes for running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy, who was nicknamed “Shady” by his mother as a child, got for 121 of his 123 rushing yards during the second half of a 19-17 victory.
“Shoot, LeSean is doing well and had a good game,” Mornhinweg said Thursday. “I don’t do the nickname thing. Some guys with nicknames, they got them when they were 9 (years old) and they might not really even like it, you know? So, I’m pretty careful with the nicknames.
“Our runner, LeSean, just kept after it. It really was the whole offensive team. They just hang in there, hang in there and then pretty soon things will start to pop. That last game didn’t start out the way we planned, but the players hung in there and then we started generating some pretty good stuff.”
That could continue Sunday at Pittsburgh.
McCoy will enter the game as the NFL’s third-leading rusher with 384 yards on 81 carries (4.74 yards per carry) behind only Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (423 yards) and Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (415).
The Steelers are tied for 14th in run defense, having allowed 101 yards per game. In Pittsburgh’s most recent game, against Oakland on Sept. 23 (the Steelers did not play last week), the Raiders’ Darren McFadden ran for 113 yards in a 34-31 victory.
The Steelers haven’t allowed back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in 10 years.
“This is a prideful group,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We definitely don’t want to give up 100 yards, if it’s back-to-back or whatever.”
The Steelers defense will be healthier Sunday, however. Outside linebacker James Harrison is expected to make his season debut after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Safety Troy Polamalu will be back after missing two games with a strained calf.
Both veterans are considered among the best in the league at their positions.
“They’re getting two great players back,” Mornhinweg said. “You have to account for Polamalu on every play. He’s just fantastic, best in the game.”
McCoy will have some extra incentive by returning to the scene of his college exploits.
He joined the Eagles in 2008 as a second-round draft pick after two years with the University of Pittsburgh. Sunday’s game will be his first regular-season one in Pittsburgh. The Eagles have not played there since 2004.
“I’ve got to get a lot of tickets,” McCoy said. “There are a lot of old college friends and teammates who want to come to the game.”
His fans may not necessarily see him get 20-25 carries since Reid and Mornhinweg rarely stick with the same plan in consecutive games. Should the Steelers focus on containing McCoy, that could open things up for quarterback Michael Vick and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and/or tight end Brent Celek.
McCoy, a 2011 Pro Bowler, claimed he doesn’t care if he gets 20 carries or two as long as the Eagles wind up with a victory.
“I don’t get as much attention as other backs because they don’t have as many weapons,” he said. “I’m fine with that and I’m grateful to be on a team like this. I think any running back would die to be in my system.
“We have so many players you have to watch out for, so many people that can make plays. I don’t think for the Eagles to win I have to carry the ball 25 times or whatever.”
When he does get the ball, he’ll have fullback Stanley Havili serving as his lead blocker.
Some of McCoy’s best runs against the Giants were made possible because Havili opened holes as wide as the Wildwood beaches. The 6-foot, 245-pounder also rushed for 15 yards on two carries and caught a pass for 7 yards.
Havili has been one of the Eagles’ big surprises this season after spending all of 2011 on their practice squad.
“I love blocking,” Havili said. “I take pride in opening holes for the other backs. That’s my job. That’s what they pay me for.
“I’m just excited to be playing in the NFL.”
Extra points: Linebacker Akeem Jordan (strained hamstring), defensive tackle Derek Landri (knee inflammation) and guard Danny Watkins (chest contusion) did not practice Thursday. Jamar Chaney is expected to start at weakside linebacker instead of Jordan. If Watkins can’t play, the Eagles probably would use King Dunlap at right guard.