LeSean McCoy is one of 31 players in NFL history with at least 8,000 yards rushing in his first eight seasons — among them, 14 are Pro Football Fall of Famers.
McCoy's 4.72 yards per attempt rank fifth among the crew of 31, behind Hall of Famers Jim Brown (5.20), Barry Sanders (4.92) and former Bill O.J. Simpson (4.82). McCoy, who has 8,954 career rushing yards, also trails 32-year-old Saints running back Adrian Peterson (4.86 yards per attempt). Peterson last played a game Dec. 18, 2016, and last rushed for 100 yards in a game Dec. 27, 2015.
Last season, at age 28, McCoy ran for 1,267 yards and had a career-best 5.41 yards per carry , in part due to a strong Bills offensive line — which ranked first in Pro Football Focus' yards before contact per attempt statistic at 2.88.
Yards before contact per attempt by offensive line in 2016: pic.twitter.com/MpGBQtJmXp
— Jeff Ratcliffe (@JeffRatcliffe) March 13, 2017
A key attribute for McCoy is his elusiveness. He ranked sixth in the NFL with 43 missed tackles forced and second with a 44.5 breakaway percentage, defined by Pro Football Focus as the percentage of total rushing yards that come on runs of 15 yards or more.
McCoy, due to make a base salary of $6 million this season, is in the third year of a five-year contract worth up to $40 million. He had $2.5 million in incentives added to his contract for this season, according to Adam Schefter.
Bills have added $2.5 million in incentives to LeSean McCoy's contract, per source. More incentive for more production.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 7, 2017
That news came in the wake of coach Sean McDermott saying that, “We play to win, and whatever it takes to win the game, that’s what we’re going to do. If that means he needs to play every snap, that’s what we’ll do.”
The Bills may be incentivizing the aging McCoy to steer clear of body preservation and go for broke, knowing last season his elusiveness remained and with the Bills' line he picked up 2.88 yards before contact. Running back production historically shows diminishing returns as a player enters his 30s, with apparent exceptions to backs like Tiki Barber and Fred Taylor, who actually rushed for more yards per carry in their 30s than their 20s.
McCoy may be this Bills offense's lone big-play difference maker. Regardless of how many seasons he has left, another big season this year would position him nicely to one day having a permanent home in Canton, Ohio.
If McCoy hits 1,000 rushing yards and 4.75 yards per carry in 2017 — numbers he surpassed last season — that will mark the fifth time he has accomplished that. Only one player in history had more than five such seasons: Barry Sanders, who had six.
Ryan Spaeder is a statistician, analyst and writer, whose work up until now has focused primarily on baseball. Spaeder is also a contributor to The Sporting News and co-authored Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts in Baseball History. Follow him on Twitter @theaceofspaeder.