Philadelphia Eagles News

Westbrook Hungry To Deliver

Brian Westbrook isn't 100 percent healthy. Of course, most running backs at this stage of the season won't be. It's the nature of getting paid to get hit nearly 500 times.

Having suffered an ankle injury and fractured ribs earlier this season, Westbrook said the pain from either injury could come back at any point.

"Anytime you're not 100 percent, you feel injuries here and there," Westbrook said. "That's why I'm battling and trying to get back to being 100 percent, so I can be myself more out there on the field."

But he's not using his bumps and bruises as an excuse for the woes that have plagued the Eagles' running game the past two weeks – he's still adamant that he wants the ball and to establish the run, and he says he's healthy enough to do that.

The lack of a productive run game has been the biggest knock against an Eagles offense that scores a lot of points and has, typically, given its defense a chance to win the game. But with that offense being even more disproportionate than usual the past two weeks, questions are being asked.

But Westbrook believes he just needs the ball. Brian Westbrook PC: November 12

"If you don't get those carries, then you don't really establish a rhythm. It's tough to do it with a couple carries here, a couple carries there," he said. "I have to do a better job of getting more yardage so that we get more carries. That's my part in the whole deal."

Westbrook's averaging 4.1 yards per carry this year, down .7 yards from last season and a full yard from 2006, both seasons in which he gained more than 1,200 yards on the ground. For his career, he averages 4.7 yards per carry – a high total in line with what the Eagles typically get from their running game.

In head coach Andy Reid's offense, his backs typically get fewer carries than the league average but they get more out of them. Last season, the Eagles got 4.7 yards per running play, good for second in the entire league. This year, it's down to a flat 4.0 – tied for 16th overall. Since 2001, the Eagles have only finished outside of the top 10 once in yards per carry, when they averaged 3.9 yards and finished 18th in 2005. That Eagles team went 6-10.

So the question isn't how much should the Eagles run the ball, but how to establish it so it can be done effectively.

There's been a few solutions proposed, but none have seemed to stick. Do the Eagles miss Shawn Andrews that badly? Do they need a natural fullback, instead of a trial-by-fire prospect? Do they simply need to run it earlier and more often?

"Especially for a guy like me, who's only been on the offensive side of the ball for four weeks, I don't think I can speak on that," said fullback Dan Klecko, who's seen what an effective run game can do from the opposite side of the ball as a defensive tackle in the past. "But anytime you get (Westbrook) the ball a lot, that's great."

Westbrook has seen the Eagles lean on the running game in the past when he proved that he was a playmaker – a chance for the Eagles to get their coveted big plays through hand-offs, pitches and screen plays.

He thinks he needs an opportunity to show that again, to get things moving.

"You have to have patience and you have to have belief in (the run). Of course, in the running game, there are going to be some plays where you're not going to have too much of a gain," he said. "You might have a couple yards here and there, but then there might be some plays where you get 12, 20, 30 yards so you have to be patient and you have to believe that it's going to work. You have to have that commitment to it."

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