ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) When he was much younger and brasher, LeSean McCoy recalled informing the league’s older running backs of how he was going to one day chase them down in the record books.
A month shy of his 30th birthday, the Buffalo Bills veteran is suddenly beginning to realize how the tables have turned.
”I hang out in the offseason with a lot of running backs like (Todd) Gurley and (Le’Veon) Bell, and the way they view me is like the old head baller, ” McCoy said Tuesday, referring to the Rams and Steelers star running backs. ”It drives me. Now it’s like reversed. Now it’s `OK, I’m still an elite player, but these young guys are creeping on me.’
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”So I’ve got to continue to do better and be better.”
Nothing has slowed him down yet, entering his fourth year in Buffalo and 10th in the NFL.
McCoy is coming off a season in which he had 1,138 yards rushing, and 1,586 yards from scrimmage (including 448 receiving) for the fifth-best totals of his career.
”What can I say, it’s been a great ride. And I look forward to having a big year again,” McCoy said, speaking to reporters for the first time this offseason, and after the Bills opened a three-day mandatory minicamp.
”I’m excited about this year. I’m excited to be back in that offense where it’s hitting on all cylinders.”
How quickly the offense can begin clicking is an uncertainty given the offseason turnover.
With third-year starter Tyrod Taylor traded to Cleveland, Buffalo is breaking in a new quarterback after drafting Wyoming’s Josh Allen in the first round and signing AJ McCarron in free agency. Brian Daboll takes over as coordinator after Rick Dennison was fired in January. And the line’s being revamped after center Eric Wood retired and guard Richie Incognito was released.
Though he’ll miss Taylor, McCoy likes what he’s seen from Allen, who is being developed behind McCarron and second-year holdover Nathan Peterman.
”I’ve got to be honest. He’s pretty good, and I’m not a big fan of rookies,” McCoy said of Allen.
”It’s still early. I don’t want to make him Jim Kelly already, he just has to learn different things,” McCoy said, referring to the Bills Hall of Fame quarterback. ”He’s got a lot on his plate. But other than that, just talent-wise and intelligence, he has it to be a starting quarterback and also a franchise quarterback.”
McCoy’s biggest concern is losing Wood and Incognito, who played big roles in helping Buffalo rank no worse than sixth in the league in yards rushing in each of the past three years.
”I would be lying if I told you it didn’t matter,” he said.
Otherwise, McCoy was in a playful mood.
He questioned how he fell from 27th to 30th on the NFL Network’s top 100 player rankings.
”I think I should never go past 25,” said McCoy, whose jersey number happens to be 25. ”If the 25 dude’s better than me, I don’t see it. But that’s just my opinion. And I’m known to have an opinion, and you can quote that for sure: 25. Bam! Always.”
He bantered with McCarron after the quarterback praised the running back before recalling how he was still in high school when McCoy played college.
”Other than the age, you did pretty good,” he said to McCarron.
When it comes to age, McCoy has all but run out of contemporaries to pass. His 10,092 yards rushing rank third among active running backs, behind only Frank Gore (14,026) and Adrian Peterson (12,276), and 29th on the career list.
What particularly stands out has been McCoy’s consistency. He’s among only 15 players to top 1,100 yards from scrimmage in eight straight seasons, according to Pro Football Reference.
McCoy was wowed when informed the list includes his idol Barry Sanders, who topped 1,100 yards in 10 straight seasons, and that he’s tied with Bills’ Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas.
”Thurman has eight? Well, I’m going to get nine this year,” said McCoy, who has befriended Thomas since arriving in Buffalo.
After a brief pause, McCoy added: ”But Thurman’s better than I am.”
NOTES: Allen earned his first opportunity to practice with the starters after spending the team’s 10 voluntary spring sessions working with the third-string offense. … LB Matt Milano did not practice because of a hamstring injury.
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