We think now of Brian Westbrook in wishful ways, hoping that his second concussion is not one that lingers, that his health will return to 100 percent and then, down on the list of priorities, that he will again be a star running back for the Eagles. It is a sobering time wondering when (if?) Westbrook will come back this season, or ever. One of the greatest players in franchise history, and in this decade in the NFL, is in a scary medical predicament.
From a football standpoint, it is clear how much the Eagles miss a healthy Westbrook. He has always been so versatile, so crafty and explosive and intelligent. Can you remember Westbrook ever lining up wrong? Committing a false-start penalty? Holding? What a tremendous football player he has been since the Eagles drafted him in 2002.
Even last year, when Westbrook was hobbling with a sore knee, he scored 14 touchdowns in the regular season. He is one of the best receivers out of the backfield ever, and his production in the red zone year after year is sorely missed now.
For the present and the foreseeable future, LeSean McCoy gets the call at halfback. He is 21 years old, and he has a bright future. McCoy, though, is not Westbrook. He does not have the experience, the wisdom, the NFL know-how. Maybe some day McCoy will reach the heights Westbrook has reached. For now, the Eagles have to rely on McCoy's youth, his energy, his raw talent.
Behind McCoy, the Eagles have Eldra Buckley, a hard-charging running back who elevates to the backup position. Rookie P.J. Hill is a newcomer who spent most of the first half of the season on the practice squad in New Orleans.
And Westbrook, meanwhile, will weigh his options. Andy Reid has made it clear that Westbrook, the person, comes before Westbrook, the player. The Eagles, as they did when Westbrook was injured in Washington, will use extreme caution and best-practices in determining what to do with Westbrook. There are only seven weeks remaining in the regular season. Will the Eagles consider putting him on Injured Reserve if they deem the injury one that will keep him out of action for two, three, or four weeks? Would they then consider signing a veteran for the stretch run, someone like Warrick Dunn, the former star in Tampa Bay and Atlanta who has the skills to play in this system?
We'll know more about what happens next for Westbrook and for the team in a couple of days when the Eagles weigh his symptoms and see how he is feeling. Right now, it's scary, and it's humbling and, well, Westbrook is a fallen hero of the Eagles gridiron. Concussions are nasty business. Westbrook, coming off a spring during which he first had a knee surgery and then had an ankle procedure, has had a year to forget. He entered the season just 818 yards away from becoming the franchise's all-time leading rusher. That number now seems so, so far away at this point.
What is most important is that Westbrook recovers and is medically cleared from any post-concussion syndrome problems. He is a young man with so many great things ahead in his life. Football wise, there has to be real concern, and there is. Westbrook has suffered two concussions in a month, first from a knee to the helmet and then from a direct helmet-to-helmet hit from Chargers safety Eric Weddle.
The play was vicious. It was football. Westbrook got up from gaining 9 yards on the screen pass, went directly to the sidelines with his helmet off and consulted the athletic training staff. And that was it. Another concussion. More worry. And the next steps in a great football career very much in doubt.
**THREE CHEERS TO YOU EAGLES FANS
That the Eagles lost in San Diego was the disappointing part of Sunday afternoon against the Chargers. The amazing aspect of the day when the incredible fan support on the road once again. Trust me, everyone noticed -- players, coaches and the Eagles administration. To hear Eagles fans chanting "DEFENSE, DEFENSE" when the Chargers offense was on the field, in their stadium, was unprecedented.
Here is a big shout out to the Eagles fans. Thank you for an incredible show of support.
Said Reid on Monday: "There was a lot of green in the stands. As players and coaches we wish we would have given them a better show than what we did, but we do appreciate their support and them coming out for the game."
There were no official numbers of Eagles fans, but my guess is 10,000 to 15,000 strong. It rivaled the Monday night show when the Eagles played in Miami during the 2003 season. Amazing. Thank you.
**ASSESSING THE INJURY REPORT
Look for left tackle Jason Peters to return to the lineup on Sunday night in Chicago, and here is hoping that WILL linebacker Akeem Jordan is ready to go as well. Quintin Demps is needed in the kickoff return game and sounds like a touch-and-go situation with his ankle sprain. We shall see on Sheldon Brown, who has a hamstring strain. Given Brown's ironman history, I'm saying that he will play against Chicago.
In Peters' place, Todd Herremans played extremely well against Shawn Merriman at left tackle. The Eagles moved around their linebackers and took some lumps, so getting Jordan back and moving Will Witherspoon to the middle is important against a team that likes to establish the running game.
**FIXING THE RED ZONE?
I'm not sure what the Eagles have in mind to fix their red-zone woes, but they have to address it quickly. There isn't enough time to overhaul the playbook, so be realistic. The Eagles must execute better -- there were far too many mistakes in execution, particularly up front -- and they have to exercise some unpredictability. The lack of a running game near the goal line is hurting the offense in a big way.
No question Reid and his staff looked at the situation very closely on Monday. They can do the same on Tuesday, at least to a degree. By Wednesday, though, the game plan is in place and there is no looking back. Getting a touchdown or two early in Chicago in the red zone would be huge.