Philadelphia Eagles News

Running Game Is A Strength Of The Offense

Brian Westbrook took the handoff and did what he does better than just about anybody in the National Football League: He allowed his blocking wall to open a sliver of light and then Westbrook picked his way through the forest of the defense and suddenly he was in the clear, down the right sidelines on the way to a 70-yard touchdown run. It was a thing of beauty, and as the swell of sound increased from the large crowd watching from the stands at Lehigh University,

It stirred many thoughts, including the obvious, that Westbrook is a rare and special talent who sees things in a completey different way that most of the players in the league. Also, the play reinforced the way a big play changes the complexion of a game, of a team, of a season even.

And it provided a sample of how well the Eagles run the ball when they give a running back a chance, and an opening. Westbrook, brilliant last year with 1,333 rushing yards, and Correll Buckhalter, who averaged 5 yards per carry, stated their case loudly that the Eagles running game was one to reckon with.

Here, then, is a statement about the team's approach and its effectiveness in the running game: Bravo. The Eagles play the ground game well, and while there is always a need to get better, running the football is a strength for this team, not a question mark in the least.

I'm excited about the prospects of the Eagles' running game. Westbrook is an elite player, of course, who is going to get his 15-18 carries every game. Suuplemented by a few touches -- at least -- in the passing game -- Westbrook will get his. Touches, yards and highlight-film moments, that is. Buckhalter looks better than he has ever looked -- I will repeat that over and over again until I see otherwise -- and deserves to be included in the weekly game plan process.

Then there is Lorenzo Booker, who has been in the first two days of training camp everything he was in the spring: Sticky-handed, well-timed in his X's and O's execution, very quick and fast. He is going to play, and play a lot in the scheme.

It is a promising trio, with Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats offering competition. The Eagles have the means to run the ball with speed and with power, with shiftiness and with a north-south mentality.

Yeah, I know the Eagles are going to mix it up, and they are going to forever be known as a "pass first" team as long as Andy Reid oversees the scheme. That's what happens when a reputation is carved, whether or not the facts follow the fiction. The Eagles are going to pass the ball between 55 and 60 percent of the time this season, if my guess is correct. I'm fine with that ratio, so long as the running game is not ignored for long stretches of time.

It is just too good, too versatile, to leave in the cold in the heat of the game. I think the Eagles know it, too, and that we could see an extra handoff or two or three this year. I also think that the short passing game -- the screens and the swing passes and the circle routes to the backs -- could also be a large part of the attack.

In Sunday's "live" session, the No. 1 offense converted a third-and-13 with a screen pass to Westbrook and then took it to the house with Westbrook's run and then moved the ball well in the air and on the ground for the remainder of the morning. The defense, by and large, has looked fast and "downhill" in the early stages of camp, but the offense made its plays, too.

For the remainder of camp, we'll see how the Eagles plan to integrate Booker into the picture, along with rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The pieces need to come together, but the foundation is in place. The offense, in a roundabout way, revolves around the running game. It is the go-to staple of the offense. Westbrook showed that on Sunday with a dynamite run behing a big, strong offensive line.

It will continue that way in the regular season. Don't be fooled by ratios: The Eagles can run the football, will run the football and need to lean on the ground game to make this offense go.

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