Amidst the ones that identify themselves as "Eagle Fans" was another tragedy that continued to fuel this off season's woes. The Philadelphia faithful had already endured the painful experience of seeing Brian Dawkins walk from the team, as well as their beloved defensive mastermind take a leave of absence to treat his diagnosed cancer.
What else could go wrong?
The only thing that seemed to be thriving well in the off season was the offensive side of the ball. The Eagles drafted wonderful young offensive talents with their first three selections, acquired a productive back in Leonard Weaver, and reinforced an already fortified offensive line.
The "curse" that was plaguing the defense, as far as Eagle Fans were concerned, should not spread itself to the offense.
And then it happened.
On Friday, June 5, Brian Westbrook, the team’s Pro Bowl running back, went under the knife to remove two large bone fragments from his right ankle. As Eagle fans held their breath on the timetable of Westbrook's eventual return, Rick Burkholder, the team's trainer, delivered the news: Brian Westbrook's ankle would need months of time to recover and rehabilitate before he could carry the pigskin again.
Eagle fanatics all over had mixed feelings.
Standing in one corner of the ring were the fans who who took it pessimistically: The man who accounted for 65 percent of the Eagles offense last season was not only turning the dreaded age of 30, but is sidelined until the regular season. Even if he could make it back in time for the regular season showdown with the Panthers, how game ready would he be?
In the other corner of the ring were the fans who took it with confidence: Even though Brian Westbrook is out for the pre-season, he hardly ever saw time on the field during those games. He already knows the game and the plays. Guys like Lorenzo Booker, LeSean McCoy, and Eldra Buckley can only benefit from the absence of Westbrook, and will get better with more individual coaching and touches.
I tend to agree with the opinions of those with an optimistic outlook in this situation. You may ask, "How can you have no worries about an injury to our offensive bread and butter?" Well, it's simple. There are many factors that you should look at when you are evaluating this situation.
I've compiled some thought, quotes, and facts that should make you sleep a little better at night.
Let's take a glance:
Brian Westbrook will be recovered in time for the regular season. Westbrook will miss the Eagles Training Camp, as well as all four pre-season games. Sounds horrible, except for the fact that Westbrook doesn't usually play in the pre-season anyway. Over the past three pre-seasons, Westbrook has averaged 10 carries. So, when it comes down to it, the only thing Westbrook will miss is 10 pre-season carries. He knows the plays, obviously, and is a battle-tested veteran. Missing training camp and pre-season should be a non-factor in evaluating the situation.
Rick Burkholder says Westbrook will be fine. Eagles' head athletic trainer, Rick Burkholder, is a realist. He will not try to sugarcoat an injury, or make you believe that a player will recover faster than he will. Also, when he speaks with the media, he tends to play it on the safe side.
Here is what he had to say:
"If you're asking me if I'm worried about this injury and his two injuries, no I'm not at all," said Burkholder. "I'm not worried in the least about these injuries, and that's the way I've played it with Coach and with management and with the rest of the coaches. I am not concerned about this injury. I think it's something that we had an option to do or not do and we decided to do it and we are going forward and he's going to be in really good shape this coming season."Let us hope.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed versatile back Leonard Weaver in the off-season. Super back Leonard Weaver is a unique talent. He is immense enough to be a full back, and quick enough to be a running back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and can bull doze an oncoming taker. Oh, and did I mention that he could catch the ball out of the backfield? Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg adore the pass catching running back. Also, think of this: Leonard Weaver could play full back and half back, just in case Westbrook doesn't come back in tip-top shape. In two running back sets, he would wind up being the full back. In one running back sets, he would be the lone wolf. Also, undrafted rookie full back Marcus Mailei has impressed the Eagles staff, which may cause the Eagles to maintain him if they want Weaver as the half back in two back sets.
So, what does Weaver have to say about this?
""That's one of the things I bring to the table," Weaver said. I have the versatility to go from fullback to running back or even play out of the one-back. Whatever Andy and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] want to do in terms of using me and my versatility, I'm open to it. I'm ready to step in there whenever they call my number."Good enough for me.
Lorenzo Booker will be better in his second season as a Philadelphia Eagle. When the Eagles traded their 4th round draft selection to the Miami Dolphins in return for the services of Lorenzo, the fans praised Head Coach Andy Reid. He was a back that reminded them of Brian Westbrook, and was thought to be an explosive weapon that the Eagles could use alongside Brian Westbrook. In 20 carries during the 2008-2009 NFL Season, Lorenzo Booker earned a mere 53 yards. Umm...Paris Hilton may be capable of doing that. In other words, it is not what was expected of Mr. Booker. Despite his lack of carries, Booker rarely saw the field. Andy Reid attributed this to his poor pass blocking skills. Anyway, with the horrific season behind him, Lorenzo Booker will have a chip on his shoulder. Andy Reid has already stated that they have worked with Booker on pass blocking. Also, he should be more comfortable within the Eagles system.
Interesting stat alert!We know that Lorenzo Booker can perform well, it is just a question of whether he will perform well. With a newly bolstered offensive line, and the starter on the sidelines, the light shines on him. He has no excuses not to perform well.
According to nfl.com's statistics, in Lorenzo Booker's first year with the Miami Dolphins, he ran for 125 yards on 28 carries. That is a healthy 4.5 yards per carry! More interestingly was his receptions, which was 28 for 237 yards.
With Westbrook sidelined, Booker, McCoy, and other Eagles' rookies will receive more focus. Vince Lombardi once said, "Practice makes perfect." We'll see how that plays out with Lorenzo Booker, LeSean McCoy, and Eldra Buckley, as they will be more involved and dependent now that Brian Westbrook is the towel boy. As any second grader can point out, with Brian Westbrook in a cast, the young fellows behind him will get more battle experience, and hopefully get better. LeSean McCoy, the Eagles' 2009 second round draft pick could use the extra workload, as it is a tough system, and he will be counted on in the regular season. For more information, see the previous post "RB Group Has Big Opportunity".
What has happened has happened. The key to Brian Westbrook's injury right now is patience. I think it would be a wise move to keep Brian Westbrook out until he is fully 100% ready, even if it means extending his absence into the early regular season. I would rather the Eagles play one or two games without superman, than the entire regular season if he were to hurt it again when he shouldn't have been playing. In the end, Brian Westbrook's rehabilitation will be plenty enough of "training camp" to keep him fresh. The Eagles did a fantastic move of signing Leonard Weaver and drafting LeSean McCoy in the off-season. Now their evil plan must be tested. Some people say that we should sign a Free Agent running back. I tend to disagree. The only name that would make sense to sign is Warrick Dunn, as he is a versatile pass catching running back. However, so is LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver. Others may want a big back like former Saint Deuce Mcallister. I think it is a waste of money, since we have the big boy in Leonard Weaver.
Whatever course the Eagles take, I'm sure it will serve well. We have an outstanding coaching staff and I fully trust them to make the right decisions.
Let's hope and pray for a fast recovery for Brian Westbrook, as well as an injury-free training camp and pre season for all.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
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