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Is LeSean McCoy the Best Running Back in the NFL?

Oct 31, 2011, 2:27 AM EDT

After hanging 185 against the top-ranked run defense on Sunday, it's time to ask whether or not LeSean McCoy is the best running back in the NFL?

Statistically speaking, yes — it’s that simple.

Only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson has accumulated more yards, but the Vikings have played one more game than the Eagles. Once it’s broken down, LeSean McCoy is averaging 107.7 yards per game, the highest total in the league. His 5.6 yards per carry is the best of any back with greater than 60 carries. His eight rushing touchdowns are good for second place, one behind AP, and he’s the only runner with a touchdown in every game he’s played. Just for good measure, McCoy has hauled in 23 passes and added a pair of scores through the air.

There is little doubt now we are currently watching one of the best running backs ever to wear an Eagles uniform.

Perhaps the most amazing part is an Andy Reid offense is actually calling the running back’s number with such frequency. McCoy has carried 24 times or more in three games. He’s run at least 15 times in two more. Of course, how can the coaches keep the ball out of his hands? Shady is closing in on the career high he set last season, just 326 ticks shy of 1,080. He already has more touchdowns and a higher YPC.

Maybe we shouldn’t be taken completely off-guard. As a team, the Birds are by far the best at running the ball. Aided by Mike Vick’s 422 on the year, Philadelphia is averaging 20 yards more per game than second-place Oakland, and .6 more per run than second-place Minnesota. Alhough it is rare for Reid to pound the rock this often, it’s not even an entirely new concept. Brian Westbrook once finished as high as third in the NFL for rushing yards in 2007, and the ’03 club finished fifth in attempts and seventh in yards with a backfield of Duce Staley, Dorsey Levens, and a young Westbrook, boosted by a mobile Donovan McNabb.

And yet none of the backs who have been through here over the past 13 seasons have made the impact McCoy has over seven games. He has a legitimate shot at breaking Wilbert Montgomery’s franchise record of 1,512 yards set in 1979, and Steve Van Buren’s 15 touchdowns in 1945 is not out of the question either. If Shady continues at this pace, every major Eagles rushing record will have fallen by season’s end.

But quite possibly the greatest part of all is McCoy looks like he is in this for the long haul. Because he’s so shifty, rarely do defenders appear to get clean shots at him. Even when there is physicality, McCoy is strong and hitting the defender right back. Obviously injuries can happen to anybody, but I’m not watching the game nervous about the running back breaking down as easily as my old ’93 Subaru Loyale. He is 23 years old, in his third NFL season, and ready to handle the load.

Is he really the best in the NFL? At the very least, he’s in good company. Peterson clearly is a beast, Matt Forte — who we’ll see on Sunday — is having a tremendous season in his own right, and there are a handful of backs who maybe are not among the top five rushers right now, but might have a claim to the title. At the running back position, the best in show can change quickly.

Something tells me this LeSean McCoy is for real though after hanging 185 on the top-ranked run defense in the NFL, and his name will be at or near the top of the list at the end of year. Ponder that for a moment… the Eagles might have a back lead the league in rushing during the Andy Reid era.

That statement alone should garner some votes for best back.