SAN FRANCISCO -- No Brian Westbrook. No Reggie Brown. No Shawn Andrews. No J.R. Reed. A question mark on Juqua Parker and a maybe on Kevin Curtis. So here you are, ladies and gentlemen, as the Eagles go into their (latest) Most Important Game Of The Season. Depth is going to be tested. We're going to learn again about leadership and depth and urgency and all the intangibles that are teetering as the Eagles prepare for Game 6.
Not having Westbrook is going to force the Eagles to alter some things. I know they are "running the offense," but there are certain things you do with Westbrook that you don't do with Correll Buckhalter. Maybe, for example, you don't move Buckhalter around in the formation as much. Maybe there are some "downhill" run calls the Eagles can make with Buckhalter that they wouldn't make necessarily with Westbrook.
Guaranteed, though, this offense won't look the same as the one that has bogged down the last couple of weeks. The Eagles have to force some things here, create a different tempo and take some chances. They need to establish a running game. They need to sustain drives, and they must put the ball in the end zone from the red zone.
I'm not sure there is a magic wand to wave here with weapons llike Westbrook, Brown and Andrews out. Kevin Curtis is listed as questionable and may suit up and play some, but how much can he truly give? Will the Eagles throw him in and use Curtis for 45 snaps? Or will they mix him in, give him a taste, get up to the speed of the game and get him ready to return to the starting lineup in two weeks?
The Eagles need to make something happen here. No question about it. Nobody wants to hear post-game reasons for struggles. We all need some success, and to score points the Eagles need to dip into their depth and find out just how good they are behind the starters. Buckhalter needs 15-20 touches. Lorenzo Booker needs to find a niche. The Eagles have to get something good from the fullback position, which I guess will be manned by Dan Klecko and Tony Hunt, in whatever combination Andy Reid decides.
Urgency is the key word here. Do the Eagles understand that it requires 60 good minutes of football to win in this league? I expect them to come out fast, to open up the offense and to swarm the line of scrimmage. I expect a lot from quarterback Donovan McNabb. I expect a win.
Just two weeks ago the Eagles were in Chicago and I wrote about "swagger," wondering if the Eagles had that certain something to win a tough game on the road. I thought, going in, that they did. The loss proved otherwise.
This is not one of those "swagger" games. This is one of those games the Eagles simply must win. I mean, that is all that can be said. Win this game. Don't even consider the alternative.
NEWS AND NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- The 49ers won't have starting offensive tackle Jonas Jennings and linebacker/defensive end Manny Lawson. San Francisco is equally desperate at 2-3, so don't expect them to roll over. They need the game, too.
- How much will Victor Abiamiri play? I think he is going to get 20 or so snaps at defensive tackle in the nickel and in the rotation at left end. Juqua Parker didn't practice all week, but he is making progress with a calf injury and should be good to play on Sunday. I still don't get the whole Chris Clemons thing. When are we going to see him on the field?
- Should be interesting to see how the Eagles use Hunt and Klecko at fullback. Hunt obviously is more versatile and can run a route and catch a pass, while Klecko is part of the "heavy" package in the running game.
- What are you guessing when the Eagles have a first and goal at the 6-yard line? Run or pass? What do the Eagles do to get the football into the end zone?
- I am just giving you my hunch here, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Quintin Demps start to get a rep or two or three at safety pretty soon. With J.R. Reed out, Demps could even play a couple of snaps on Sunday. Jim Johnson has talked very positively about Demps and his future here.
- Hank Baskett should re-emerge in the game plan against the 49ers. I hope he does, and I hope he stays in the picture moving forward.