Despite what the score sheet may tell you, LeSean McCoy paid immediate dividends in the Buffalo Bills' Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The nuances of his running style, and the way it affects defenses, gave the Bills' offense the push it needed to make the Colts properly pay for a sloppy first half. Once the Bills had the lead, McCoy and the stable of running backs made sure there would be no comeback.
Both of the plays highlighted in the gallery above how McCoy is able to nullify a failed push by his offensive line, which is something Buffalo's running game failed to do consistently last season. The early returns on the offensive line weren't great, which makes McCoy's play all the more impressive.
In the first play, McCoy is faced with a defender the moment the ball is handed him. Beyond that defender is yet another defender. This play reads like a two yard loss, for which Buffalo's runners were famous last year. McCoy's close-quarters moves are what separate him from backs the Bills have fielded in the past. Instead of a loss or a minimal gain, McCoy left the first defender in the dust and bulled to the second level, sprinting to the sideline for an eight-yard gain that helped propel the team into field goal range.
The second play offers another critical move in close confines by McCoy - arguably his most important of the game. This came with five minutes left in the game, with the Bills looking to seal a two possession lead. On 3rd and 4, McCoy once again faced two defenders at the line of scrimmage. His reputation for shiftiness held them at bay as each waited a split second to see where he'd go. That's all the time McCoy needed to split the difference. When he pounced, he found daylight in the middle, bursting between them into the second level, where he found a 16-yard gain and an effective end to any hopes of a Colts rally.
McCoy may not be a world beater in the realm of fantasy this year thanks to Buffalo's committee approach, but that's the least of the fans' concerns. In McCoy, the team has a lead rusher who not only can make the plunge up the middle, but also dance into a hole to turn a loss into a gain.
We've had fast running backs and we've had shifty running backs, but to have one who puts the whole package together in a way that sets the opposing defense back a step puts a lot of this team's offseason plans into perspective. Buffalo still doesn't sport a top offensive line, which is typically a death knell to the ground and pound approach. In McCoy, though, the team has found an antidote to its own weakness.
Provided he stays healthy, expect McCoy to remain the true engine of this offense as it takes on bigger and better defensive challenges during the 2015 season - starting with the New England Patriots this Sunday.