LeSean McCoy's injury scare highlights risk of heavy workload

Heavy workload won't discourage McCoy (0:53)

Despite carrying the ball 27 times in a win over the Jets, Bills RB LeSean McCoy feels his elusiveness allows him to hold up over the course of the season. (0:53)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- LeSean McCoy might not have played every snap in Sunday's win over the New York Jets, but the Buffalo Bills running back touched the ball 27 times and gained 159 of his team's 408 net offensive yards.

Based on his usage in Sunday's game, McCoy projects to receive 432 touches over a 16-game season. Since 2001, only five players -- Larry Johnson (457 touches in 2006), LaDainian Tomlinson (451 in 2002), DeMarco Murray (449 in 2014), Ricky Williams (442 in 2003) and Steven Jackson (436 in 2006) -- have totaled more carries and catches in a single season.

Is McCoy's pace sustainable or will the 29-year-old rusher's body eventually break down as he attempts to shoulder much of the load of the Bills' offense?

McCoy was adamant after Sunday's win 21-12 win over the New York Jets that his shifty running style will help him stay healthy.

"I'm used to that [workload]," McCoy said. "I don't take a lot of real shots. You're not going to see too many 'Oooh' hits with me.

"My tackles are more [being] wrapped up. I'm not going to take that all myself. I've been playing this way for so long. I've always been undersized, but I've always been one of the better guys on the field, whoever is on the field with me. I'm used to it. I embrace it, and that's just something I'm used to doing."

Despite McCoy's confidence, he put a scare into the crowd early in the fourth quarter. After a 3-yard run at the goal line, he jogged off the field and doubled over on the sideline as he was surrounded by trainers.

"I jumped in there [near the end zone], and I guess with the placement of the ball and my wrist, [it] just kind of went numb," McCoy said. "I didn't want to be selfish and try to get a touchdown with a numb right hand."

In place of McCoy, the Bills inserted 250-pound bruiser Mike Tolbert into the backfield. Tolbert promptly scored a 1-yard touchdown, the highlight of an afternoon in which Tolbert gained 42 yards on 12 carries while adding a 12-yard catch.

Tolbert should give McCoy some relief this season, especially near the goal line. But the 31-year-old part-fullback, part-tailback is cut from a different mold than Mike Gillislee, a more traditional No. 2 running back who spelled McCoy for 101 carries and 577 yards last season.

If Sunday is any indication -- and there was nothing unexpected about the Bills' run-heavy game plan -- McCoy's workload projects to be higher than last season. He surpassed 27 touches only once in 2016, when he had 29 in a Week 16 overtime win over the Dolphins. In six seasons (2009-14) with the Eagles, McCoy tallied more than 27 touches in only eight games.

Without Sammy Watkins or any top-tier threat in the passing game, the Bills are leaning heavily on McCoy -- and defenses know it.

"A lot of times, [the Jets' defense] had a lot of eight-man box[es]," McCoy said Sunday. "That's expected to kind of stop the running game."

With defenses keying on McCoy and the risk of injury increased as his number of touches ticks up, this season might present one of the biggest physical challenges of the running back's career.

"Little nicks and bruises here, that's football," he said Sunday. "But overall, I want [to be] challenged. I want the ball."