Although the Eagles and their head coach Andy Reid continue to insist that the team’s starting runner Brian Westbrook has a chance of playing this weekend against the Giants, it is becoming increasingly unlikely the concussion victim will suit up for Week 8. There have been various tests and evaluations of Westbrook’s head (which was hit and somewhat severely injured vs. the Redskins), and despite optimism and such statements from staff, there are quite a few signs pointing in the direction of a missed game rather than played game for the veteran RB this Sunday.
Westbrook, who has already been inactive for a game this season with a twisted ankle, was held out of most of Week 7’s contest after he collided roughly with one of the Redskins’ defenders and exited the game to undergo a medical examination. He didn’t participate in yesterday’s practice, and was also absent from duties in today’s session because of continuing pain in his head. This, added to the league commissioner’s recent statements raising awareness of concussion injuries in football, and the analysis of team trainer and health specialist Rick Burkholder’s comments saying that Westbrook’s status for the game is up in the air, makes it likely that all the 8th-year rusher will be doing on Sunday against the Giants is encouraging other players on the sideline (or perhaps rehabilitating elsewhere if the injury improves little).
Despite the good possibility that Westbrook won’t be carrying the load versus the rival New York team, his backups are prepared for a potential increase in work. 2nd-string RB and 2nd-round Draft selection LeSean McCoy (pictured) has already started a game (the Week 3 matchup in which Westbrook was out with ankle pain), and has overall been a productive offensive weapon when utilized as the main back. On the season, he has gained 212 yards and a touchdown off of 59 carries, to go along with receiving contributions in the form of 13 receptions for 92 yards. His statistics aren’t eye-popping, but the freshman player has also executed solid blocking and has performed well as an offensive decoy to other key members of the team. McCoy talked briefly about his potential start and what he thinks of the game as a whole: “I’ve kind of been in this situation before,” “I kind of have the flow of the offense and I’ve been playing with Donovan [McNabb] and all the guys, DeSean [Jackson], so it’s really not a difference. Even when Brian [Westbrook] was playing we still rotated quite a bit, so I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a difference.”
While McCoy would get the start in the absence of Westbrook, powerful runner Eldra Buckley would also see a rise in playing time, as he’d elevate from the 3rd RB spot to the backup position. Although he hasn’t been a significant factor in the offensive strategies this year, getting only one hand-off for 4 yards, the preseason star and “long shot” offseason addition is excited about the chance of playing more, but has also not changed his preparation practices for the game, saying: “It doesn’t change my preparation at all,” “Every week when I go out to practice, I’m looking at what they’re doing and I’m the film room every week. It really doesn’t change my preparation; it just alerts me more to know that I could be in there early.” “I’m excited every week just to be able to play, come out and play the game we love. I’m excited every week so this week won’t be different from any other week.”
In addition to the possible increased workloads of McCoy and Buckley, recent acquisition P.J. Hill and FB Leonard Weaver might also see some carries. Hill, signed from the Saints’ practice squad after LB Omar Gaither was placed on the IR, is a strong and hard runner, and might get a few short-yardage calls if he can prove ready to play in the coming days of practice. Weaver, meanwhile, will still line up as the starting Fullback, but could see more hand-offs as a result of the potential Westbrook absence. After all, the team signed him because of his versatility and ability to run the ball just as well as some listed Running Backs. He too commented on the chance of seeing more running opportunities: “I’m very comfortable [carrying the ball], it’s something I’ve been able to do my whole career, going from fullback to playing a little bit of everything,” “So whatever they want to do and whatever Coach Reid and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] want to call as plays, I’ll be prepared.”
With all of the depth at the RB position and the positive feedback from Westbrook’s backups, it seems the Eagles won’t have much trouble establishing a running attack versus the Giants. Of course, that can only be determined true during and after the Week 8 rivalry game, but right now, it’s sounding good.