August 18 Philadelphia Daily News
“Duce Staley didn’t do what LeSean McCoy did as a rookie.
Like most first-year players, Staley spent his initial NFL season watching and learning. He returned kicks, very well – 24.2-yard average – but Rickey Watters was the Eagles’ go-to back in 1997 and Staley, a third-round rookie from South Carolina, managed just seven carries for 29 yards, two catches for 22 more.
The next year, though, Watters was gone and Staley did what the Eagles expect McCoy to do this season – he took over as the featured back. In Duce’s case, that translated to 1,065 rushing yards on 258 carries and 57 catches for 432 yards.
In one respect, McCoy is ahead of the game. Thanks to Brian Westbrook’s injuries last season, McCoy gained 637 rushing yards on 155 carries as a second-round rookie out of Pitt, the most yards by any Eagles rookie rusher ever. He also caught 40 passes for 308 yards.
But just because McCoy showed promise in an opportunity that wasn’t afforded to Staley or Westbrook (46 carries for 193 yards, nine catches for 86 yards in 2002) doesn’t necessarily mean McCoy will become as good as Staley or Westbrook. McCoy wore down over the second half of the season; he never managed more than 48 yards rushing or 39 yards receiving in his last half-dozen games, including the playoff loss at Dallas. McCoy also had some typical rookie stuff to work through, such as dancing around in the backfield, thinking he was going to find a route around the entire defense, the way he often had at Pittsburgh, instead of hitting the hole quickly and taking what was there.
Learning a new offense at a new level was a bit overwhelming. McCoy did well to figure out where he was supposed to be on every snap; the larger picture was beyond his grasp. But in this training camp, with a year under his belt and Staley aboard as a coaching intern, McCoy has had a chance to move forward.
Overall, McCoy said, “playing a little faster,” is a goal for this season, not thinking or hesitating, the way you do when something is new. “And also getting a lot stronger in my lower [body], breaking more tackles,” he said.
Staley has helped with that first part, McCoy said yesterday after returning from a day of practice missed with a quad contusion.
Staley “was so successful” in the Eagles‘ offense, McCoy said. Staley pretty much completes McCoy’s West Coast mentorship trifecta; Shady got to pick Westbrook’s brain last year, and McCoy also is close to Watters, a fellow alumnus of Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt High. McCoy said Staley provides “little keys on running plays, making it easier to block some defenders. His thing is, look at everything as a quarterback, learn the defense. Why are the safeties moving? He’s smart.””
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