Philadelphia Eagles News

Wondering Out Loud How To Use The Toys

There he was, No. 36, taking a handoff from Donovan McNabb and racing off left guard and staying low, balanced, showing the burst that has made Brian Westbrook one of the game's best running backs in the NFL. It was the first day for Westbrook running a full-scale Eagles practice, wearing pads, and while the defenders didn't take Westbrook to the ground, they played at near-game tempo and they banged him around and they got him ready for what waits.

And another piece of the puzzle was back where it belongs: On the field, in the lineup and firmly in the game plan that changes every day in the minds of head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the rest of the offensive coaching staff. Westbrook isn't going to play against the Colts on Thursday and it remains to be seen if he plays the following week against Jacksonville, but the idea here is to get the superstar running back all the way to 100 percent for September 13 against Carolina.

Westbrook looked like Westbrook, which is the highest compliment there can be. He ran away from linebackers in the passing game and he snaked his way through traffic with characteristic Westbrook skill and he ran through every drill minus a hitch in his giddy up and, yeah, it sure was exciting to see just how far Westbrook has come after surgeries to his knee and then his ankle made some wonder if he would ever be the same Westbrook who is 818 yards away from becoming the all-time Eagles leader in rushing yardage.

From the looks of it all, Westbrook is on target to make it all the way back. So, the mind wonders. And dreams. And thinks about what this offense is going to look like and how it is going to function and, truth be told, how in the heck the Eagles are going to use Westbrook and LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek and, um, ever hear of a guy named Michael Vick? And isn't that Donovan McNabb at quarterback, he of the multi-dimensional skills and the complete knowledge of the West Coast offense and every kind of defensive manipulation teams have tried against McNabb and Co. over the years?

We're all thinking about the offense, thinking about how the X's and O's are going to unfold here. For the first time in the Reid era, the Eagles have a true fullback to go with all of that speed, and they spent the off-season investing in the offensive line, and while those pieces aren't together right now, the expectation is that that promising fivesome will soon be side by side and the offense will jell in time to play Carolina and embark on a 16-game schedule to remember.

What are the Eagles going to do with this offense? Surely, there are some spectacular plans ahead. A lot of things have to go right and the names and numbers have to match, and with a scant few weeks before the season starts, there is precious little time to make it right.

Having Westbrook on the field is a big step in the right direction. His ability to play and excel anywhere in the formation provides optimal versatility for the Eagles in the offense. The idea is to get Westbrook the ball a lot, both as a running back and as a receiver. He has been the go-to player in the offense since 2003. Most think that as Westbrook goes, so goes the Eagles offense.

That may very well still be the case, but the Eagles have added so much more firepower in the last couple of seasons. They have more depth at wide receiver than at any time in the Reid era, led by Jackson and Curtis and Avant and Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett and now Maclin, who made three big, promising plays in his preseason debut.

Westbrook has his most complete complement in the backfield in the form of McCoy, the second-round draft pick who took all the first-team repetitions in practice since the spring. McCoy gained 55 yards on 10 carries in last week's preseason game, and he is as advanced as any rookie the Eagles have ever had. What impact McCoy's presence has on Westbrook's touches is to be determined, as is most of what the Eagles plan to do.

They already had a powerful arsenal of weapons prior to signing Vick, who has stayed long after practice in each of the three days of his time as an Eagle. Vick is a quarterback now, but the Eagles are likely contemplating ways to incorporate the talent and the speed of Vick into the scheme. Is he a quarterback? A receiver? A running back? A little bit of all of the above, or is there something else the coaching staff can design to get the ball in Vick's hands in space and watch him dazzle with his speed and elusiveness?

It boggles the mind, truthfully. The Eagles have more at their disposal than they have ever had. They are missing some of the chess pieces, particularly along the offensive line, but in time those players will be back on the board. Westbrook returned to the game on Monday, and not a moment too soon. What the Eagles do with him and how they take advantage of what he can do is the next step, as it is with everything about an offense that has a lot of growth coming in the next few weeks.

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