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Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy was still awesome in 2017

We look at 2017 LeSean McCoy and reach the conclusion that he’s still playing at a very high level.

Perhaps the most terrifying moment in 2017 for Bills fans came in Week 17 when LeSean McCoy exited a match-up against the Miami Dolphins with an ankle injury. Clinging onto a thread of playoff hope, the Bills could ill afford to be without their undisputed offensive centerpiece.

Since coming to the Bills in 2015 courtesy of Chip Kelly’s questionable life choices, Shady has only strengthened an already impressive resume. With the Bills specifically, he has played the role of superstar on a lackluster offensive roster. In 2017, McCoy accounted for almost a third of the team’s yards from scrimmage. This is not unusual.

If you’re a data-oriented fan, his yards per carry might be cause for alarm. At 4.0 yards per rush, it’s his lowest efficiency ever, just behind his rookie season at 4.1. He’s had three years over 5 yards per attempt, including the 2016 campaign where he was astoundingly efficient at 5.4 yards per attempt on 234 carries. Is he showing signs of age, or did other factors contribute to what was in some ways a disappointing season?

Play 1

I could analyze this play. But sometimes analyzing poetry can ruin it. Just watch him cutting and making fools drop. That’s all you need here.

Play 2

This one we’ll talk about for a second. McCoy was asked to do it all this year, and that means making his way through a lot of traffic. His reaction speed and wiggle are on full display here. Despite being within arm’s length of five or six Bengals, he’s very close to breaking free for a big gain. Also, if you’re looking for a little blocking info on Clay, he’s in good position to spring this run if Shawn Williams didn’t find a shoelace to latch onto.

Play 3

LeSean McCoy shows up to play even when the rest of the team couldn’t be bothered. A decisive cut and he’s off to the races. If you’re wondering, McCoy’s and Rafael Bush’s 40 times were nearly identical and if it’s not for a well-timed dive, McCoy would still be running.

Play 4

More poetry here, as McCoy makes a lot of other players look silly.

Play 5

Two big takeaways here. Watch McCoy’s balance through the spin and accelerating again. That’s not a player that’s lost a step in the least. Don’t forget he was playing on a hurt ankle in this game. Also note how Shady finishes the play. He’s not one to shy from contact, but he’s very good at avoiding unnecessary hits. Fingers crossed this has extended his shelf life.

Further thoughts

The plays above were selected to highlight Shady across the entire season. His elusiveness and agility are what make him dangerous and are attributes that are generally present or not - you don’t luck into them. The conclusion for McCoy is that these traits remained somewhere between very good and incredible all year. From an ability standpoint, the 2017 season doesn’t seem to provide evidence of a drop off. This is all the more impressive considering he saw the second-most number of touches in his career (287 rushes and 59 catches on 77 targets).

We highlighted after Week 5 that the Bills were negating running yards with holding calls at a ludicrous pace. This didn’t completely go away, and this anomaly is a major reason for the decline in efficiency. This year’s team was on pace to negate nearly 7 times the rushing yardage as the year before via just the offensive holding penalty.

And if you need more reasons to think that McCoy had the odds stacked against him, here’s a quick list of other factors that likely impacted his efficiency. Rick Dennison’s blocking schemes and play calling were “less than ideal.” It’s a safe bet anyone reading this has heard that the Tyrod Taylor led passing offense was not great. The quality of backups behind McCoy was often questionable. We probably don’t need to go on.

Decision time

This is likely the easiest player on the team to make a “decision” on. McCoy will hit the dreaded 30th birthday on July 12th of this year. Father Time will eventually come calling and it’s not unreasonable to think he’ll start to slow down soon. However, 2017 Shady played at a very high level despite numerous obstacles to success. If 2018 is the season his decline begins, the safe money is that you still have a player that would upgrade most of the league’s running back position.

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