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With Westbrook Shelved, Now What At RB?

A sore ankle has turned into a surgical procedure called a "debridement," which is, according to Wikipedia, akin to scraping plaque off of teeth. In the case of Brian Westbrook, though, a debridement raises all kinds of questions about his immediate future and the impact Friday's surgical procedure will have on the Eagles this season.

First things first: Understand that, as the picture is being painted by the one party that is talking, Westbrook's agent Todd France, the injury is minor enough that Westbrook would be playing, not having surgery, if the team were playing in the regular season. But certainly the timing of all of this is peculiar, and we'll get an explanation as the story unfolds. As we know at this moment, Westbrook is having surgery on his right ankle on Friday, performed by Dr. Mark Myerson.

That's it. That's really all we know. The rest is speculation as far as how long Westbrook will be sidelined, although it is fair to believe that he will be rehabbing the injury, rather than fighting the heat of two practices a day at Lehigh University in training camp. The regular season? It all depends on how the surgery goes and how the recovery proceeds and all the variables that go when a player goes under the knife.

It sounds like Westbrook is going to be fine, that there is no structural damage in his right ankle, that it is not related to any knee issues and that if the surgery is clean and the rehab goes well, No. 36 will be in the backfield when the Eagles play in Carolina against the Panthers on September 13. In the meantime, the Eagles have to get their prized rookie, LeSean McCoy, ready to go.

That is the focus now as the Eagles continue in their Organized Team Activities. McCoy is an immense, tremendous talent. Running backs Ted Williams has privately expressed his excitement about working with McCoy since the day the Eagles made the University of Pittsburgh product a second-round draft pick. McCoy's instincts, his football knowledge, his vision and extraordinary feet make him a special prospect. No, he hasn't done it at this level, and asking a rookie to be ready for potentially heavy-duty work is something the Eagles haven't done in this Andy Reid era, but now they have no choice. They have to get McCoy ready, and ready he will be.

The Eagles are also going to make sure they have Lorenzo Booker at the ready after his first season as an Eagle was less productive than the team hoped. Booker dazzled in the spring and into training camp, and then he faded the rest of the way. Can Booker be a factor here? Can he show that he was worth the price of the fourth-round draft pick the Eagles traded to Miami last year?

Then there are other players in the mix. Kyle Eckel is a bigger back, more of a power runner. Walter Mendenhall is the unknown here, another rookie who is in a position to get some meaningful repetitions throughout the summer.

Without trying to put the happy face on the situation too much, the window of opportunity for those players -- especially McCoy and Mendenhall -- is wide open. The Eagles, according to the early indications I get, are optimistic that Westbrook will be good to go for the regular season. At the same time, they have some very promising talent to develop, so the thrust of these OTAs and then training camp will be on teaching, learning, having attention to detail.

This is such a young, young group at halfback with Westbrook sidelined. McCoy and Mendenhall are rookies. Booker is in his third season, his second here. Eckel is a third-year player in the NFL. It's a Kiddie Corps. Talented, but young and not proven at this level.

Westbrook is the go-to running back here, until further notice. He has a challenging summer in front of him, making sure he is devoted to recovering from the surgery and keeping his body in tip-top shape at the same time. Should Westbrook miss the entire preseason schedule, that probably wouldn't be a big deal. Should he miss all of the preseason games and an entire summer of practice, that would be a major concern in September.

All the details will come out shortly. Having Westbrook in the doctor's office is a setback. To what degree, we don't know. The encouraging hope is that McCoy will come along, as planned, and be ready for big-time action. And that Booker steps up. And that all the backs in this camp are up for the challenge.

And that when the season rolls around, Westbrook will be there and be ready to be a superstar back. This is not the time to panic, Eagles fans. This is the time to see what kind of depth the Eagles have, because this team has the responsibility to be prepared for every and any scenario. Westbrook is going to come back, and come back strong. I truly believe that. But that is just a feeling, a hope. The reality is that Westbrook isn't there right now, so for the next few months we're going to find out what life is like without him, and just how ready the Eagles are should he not come back as the Brian Westbrook we all know and love.

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