- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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METAIRIE, La. -- One of the elements that has burned the New Orleans Saints on the road this year is lapses in their run defense. Generally, their run defense has been solid this season. But some breakaway runs by the likes of Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy and DeAngelo Williams have been killers.
Now, the Saints will be facing the best running back they’ve faced all season -- the Philadelphia Eagles’ LeSean McCoy -- on Saturday night.
McCoy led the NFL by more than 200 rushing yards this year with 1,607 of them. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry. He also caught 52 passes for 539 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
He led the league in all-purpose yards (2,146) without returning a single kick.
Obviously the Saints will have their hands full with the shifty back. Not only is he dangerous on his own accord, but the Eagles’ unconventional, up-tempo offense thrives on creating defensive breakdowns. The Saints will especially need their safeties Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper and Rafael Bush to be sound and disciplined in the open field to prevent those long runs -- a problem that has crept up from time to time.
Here’s what the Saints have been saying this week about “Shady” McCoy:
OLB Junior Galette: “This guy is explosive. It’s scary what it reminds you of. It reminds me of, like, Barry Sanders, as much as I hate to say it. This guy is an amazing athlete, his footwork, and he knows what hole he wants to get to. … You’ve got to be gap sound. You can’t just jump out your gap and do your own thing on the run, or he’s gonna exploit that. A 3-yard loss could turn into a 50-yard gain.”
S Roman Harper: “They really like to put Shady McCoy in space, and he definitely is a great space player. He gets out there one-on-ones and he makes everybody miss. That just plays right into what he wants to do. He’s going to be a tough tackle. You’re not going to get this guy down one-on-one, from my experience or anybody else’s in the league right now.”
ILB Curtis Lofton: “What makes him great is he tests every level of the defense, from linebackers and the D-line to cornerbacks and safeties. Usually when you play a running back, you see on film, ‘Oh, he likes to cut, or he’s a bounce or a cut-back runner.’ With him, he does it all. He’ll run downhill, he’ll cut, he’ll bounce. So we have to be disciplined in all areas when we’re going against him.”
OLB Parys Haralson: “You don’t want to overrun the play because he can cut it back. Sometimes if you don’t get there fast enough, he’ll outrun you.”
OLB Victor Butler (on injured reserve this year, but faced McCoy frequently in the past as a NFC East rival with the Dallas Cowboys): “He’s a hell of an athlete. I think we just group tackle -- get a lot of guys to the ball -- which we’ve done a good job of this year. We’re not looking for big hits on him. You just want to bring a guy like that down. ...
“[In the Eagles’ new offense under coach Chip Kelly], it’s a little sprinkle of the same old same. They’re putting him in a position to thrive, and he’s taking advantage of it. But I think they’re just kind of getting out of his way and letting him be him.”