For years, Correll Buckhalter played in the shadows of all-world running back Brian Westbrook. Today, Buckhalter's return to where his NFL career began has been somewhat overshadowed by the return of another former Eagle, safety Brian Dawkins.
Nonetheless, when the action kicks off at 4:15 pm, the Eagles' defense must account for Buckhalter and Denver's 12th-ranked rushing offense.
"Correll is a heck of a football player," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "Our players know Correll and what he brings to the table right out of the gates here. He's tough and he runs hard."
Throughout the season, Buckhalter has looked spry and powerful and very confident on legs that have been surgically repaired. In fact, he ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per rush (5.3) among players with at least 100 carries. In fact, Buckhalter needs just five yards to set a new career high for rushing yards in a season. His previous best came back in 2001 when he rushed for 586 yards as a rookie in Philadelphia.
Sporting his familiar No. 28, Buckhalter missed last week's game with a high ankle sprain but is expected to play Sunday. He is one-half of Denver's one-two punch in the backfield. The other is Knowshon Moreno, who leads all rookie running backs with 224 rushing attempts and 879 yards.
Denver's offense is at its best when it can establish an effective running game. The Broncos need the run game to make their pass game go. Just look at the numbers: The Broncos have averaged 147.4 rushing yards in their eight wins, but just 83.8 in six losses.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, ranks 10th in the league in rush defense (101.9 ypg). The unit had not allowed an individual to run for over 100 yards in 20 straight games until the 49ers' Frank Gore put up 107 yards on 16 carries last week.
Gore's success may serve as extra motivation this week.
"You always do take that kind of personal," linebacker Will Witherspoon said. "That's kind of a defensive thing."
Witherspoon says that Buckhalter and Moreno, like Gore, have great vision. So stopping the run will be the top priority.
"Both guys have good eyes. Both of them like to get downhill," Witherspoon said. "The experience of Buckhalter kind of shows a little bit more. You can kind of see that. But Knowshon Moreno is a great running back. You have to respect exactly what he does."
And don't sleep on Buckhalter, who has quietly emerged from the shadows.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 12:00 noon, December 27