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All-22 analysis: What’s wrong with LeSean McCoy?

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With a drastic dive in production, we examine if it’s McCoy falling off the cliff, other factors, or a combination of the two

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Since his arrival in Buffalo, LeSean McCoy has been the face of the offense for the Buffalo Bills. This season has been a massive disappointment. Through eight games, McCoy has failed to log a touchdown or break the 100-yard mark in a game. Against the New England Patriots he delivered just 13 yards on twelve carries. I don’t think we need to crunch the numbers on his yards-per-attempt for that one.

So what’s the deal? Has he lost a step or thirty? Is Brian Daboll to blame? The offensive line? As a certain coach might say, let’s look at the tape to see what’s happening. We’ll focus on carries as that’s the area most drastically changed from years’ past.

Play 1 (Gain of 12 yards)

A direct snap to LeSean McCoy fools no one. The offensive line still manages to open a lane and McCoy decisively cuts in. Elandon Roberts (52) is too aggressive and shoots past the gap. McCoy’s initial move and speed gets a nice chunk of yards before Roberts can correct his mistake. Regarding Shady, his speed and acceleration look fine on this play.

Play 2 (Gain of 1 yard)

It’s another direct snap to Shady and the entire Bills offense moves in the same direction to block. The Patriots still aren’t fooled and they all move in the same direction too. Roberts shows more discipline this time and no lanes develop for McCoy.

Play 3 (Loss of 3 yards)

The line opens up a narrow lane for LeSean McCoy that likely leads to a very modest gain. Not liking what he sees, McCoy jumps to the outside only to find a worse situation. The little dance costs him three yards as Keionta Davis (58) slips his block to make a shoestring tackle.

Play 4 (Loss of 3 yards)

This negative play has a very simple explanation. As soon as Derek Anderson takes off to the side of the field, every single defender knows it’s a run play. At the snap they attack McCoy and a poor block leads to a loss of three yards.

Play 5 (Gain of 1 yard)

The Patriots (and everyone else) have relied on single coverage for Buffalo’s receivers and loaded up defenders against the run—it’s been effective. McCoy shows off some change of direction agility but it’s all for naught. There’s no good direction to go. Part of the issue on this and other plays is the offensive formation. With no one out wide on the right side of the formation it compresses the field for defenses who are already stacking the box. At the snap everyone sees run, and defenders who may have been nominally covering a receiver or tight end are already in the pile.

Play 6 (Gain of 4 yards)

A stacked box leads to no lanes once again. Jordan Mills can’t hold his block long enough and McCoy finds himself in a footrace to the sidelines. McCoy manages to pick up four yards as a result of his acceleration and speed. Another quarter-second on the block from Mills and this run has the potential to move the sticks.

Play 7 (Gain of 2 yards)

McCoy is decisive hitting the sole lane he has open. Once there he finds what looks like the entire Patriots defense waiting for him. The Patriots act unconcerned about what Derek Anderson brings to the table and have yet again sold out to stop McCoy. Teams have generally not been any more concerned about Josh Allen or Nathan Peterman.

Play 8 (Loss of 5 yards)

The Bills have plenty of blockers in front of this play. Somehow they all miss and McCoy is hit by what amounts to a free rusher. What’s worse is that you can see a large lane open up after the play is already decided. One more block and who knows how far this goes.

Play 9 (Gain of 6 yards)

It wasn’t just the Patriots who stacked the box. Single coverage on receivers has been the norm this year with extra defenders looking to stop McCoy and Chris Ivory. Some quick cuts from McCoy lead to a nice gain on this play.


In conclusion

McCoy isn’t 100% of the player he used to be, for sure. On the Tennessee Titans play he shows off some wiggle, but he’s not as consistently slippery as years past. With little to no respect for the quarterback carousel in Buffalo, teams have had more resources to shut down McCoy. Play designs aren’t always inspiring as Daboll draws some up that compress the field for the running game. Blocking is inconsistent at best. There’s an argument that Shady McCoy has lost a step. There’s also an argument that he’d be a play-maker in a different offense.