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Week 1 Analysis: LeSean McCoy

Sep 16, 2015

How concerned should we be about LeSean McCoy’s poor Week 1 performance?

How concerned should we be about LeSean McCoy's poor Week 1 performance?

How concerned should we be about LeSean McCoy’s poor Week 1 performance?

When LeSean McCoy was traded to Buffalo in March, the fantasy world let out a collective groan, and for good reason. Shady was coming off a disappointing season, and Buffalo is not nearly the fantasy-friendly environment that Philadelphia was.

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The one-time first overall fantasy pick plunged to late in the second round in many drafts. But even those with lowered expectations were sickened by the line in McCoy’s official Bills’ debut Sunday. McCoy had 17 carries for 41 yards – an abysmal 2.4 yards per carry against an Indianapolis defense feared by no one.

McCoy did have a 12-yard touchdown run called back, but the holding flag was well-deserved. Tight end Matthew Mulligan yanked Colts defensive end Kendall Langford directly out of McCoy’s way. Langford was a frequent nemesis of McCoy, as we’ll see.

The heart of Shady’s rough day was three plays on which he lost a combined 12 yards. Aside from that, he gained 53 yards on 14 carries, still a pedestrian 3.8 YPC but not a disaster.

So let’s look at those three plays:

McCoy’s worst incident statistically was the Bills’ very first play from scrimmage, and it deserves an analysis all its own.

It was an elaborate Wildcat variation in which quarterback Tyrod Taylor was lined up wide on the left side with Matt Cassel in the shotgun. Taylor went in motion to the right, and Cassel faked a handoff to him while McCoy also faked right. McCoy then reversed course and took the handoff to the left. Langford didn’t bite on the misdirection, and everything depended on that because the entire offensive line pulled to the left. Langford stayed put, giving him clear daylight into the backfield. The delayed handoff made McCoy an easy target, and Langford caught him for a loss of six yards. That one play accounted for half a yard in McCoy’s average on the day, and it resulted from a risky design that backfired.

Near the end of the first quarter, Langford dropped McCoy again in the backfield, this time slicing past right tackle Seantrel Henderson for a three-yard loss.

Another bogey-3 came in the fourth quarter. The Bills were ahead 24-8 at the Indy 24-yard-line, so everyone in the stadium expected a run. Safety Dwight Lowery added himself to a seven-man front and shot into the backfield untouched while defensive end Henry Anderson beat center Eric Wood. So as soon as McCoy got the ball, he’s greeted by two blue jerseys. No chance. McCoy was visibly frustrated after the play, and reportedly spent much of the game conferring with his linemen, especially Henderson and rookie right guard John Miller.

With a few exceptions, it was not a good day on the ground for the offensive line. That’s little consolation for a McCoy owner because he’s shown that he’s heavily dependent on his blockers. During the first half of last season in Philadelphia, McCoy struggled behind a line decimated by injuries and a suspension; his numbers improved once the line got back together. Buffalo earned Pro Football Focus’ worst rating for run blocking in 2014, and so far, the additions of guards Miller and Richie Incognito haven’t been a huge upgrade. On Monday, coach Rex Ryan expressed his disappointment with the line, saying “a couple guys took a step back.”

If there’s any hope to take from this, it’s that McCoy was likely not 100 percent recovered from his preseason hamstring injury. He warned as much last week, and just didn’t have much of a burst Sunday. Rookie Karlos Williams, by comparison, looked far more explosive on his 26-yard touchdown, and he topped the backfield with 55 yards on six carries. McCoy has room to improve as his hammy gets better and he jels more with his blockers.

The other silver lining was that he did gain 46 yards on three catches, showing good wheels on passing plays of 20 and 22 yards. There were concerns about offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s hesitancy to involve running backs in the passing game, but Sunday showed that McCoy won’t be a PPR liability.

The bottom line is that there’s no more reason to panic over McCoy as there was last week. He’s still more an RB2 than RB1 on fantasy rosters, and he could still produce a decent return on his second-round draft price.

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Keith Kraska is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Keith, check out his archive.

Correspondent, NFL, Weekly Recaps