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News » Eagles running back Westbrook ready to do some cutting

Eagles running back Westbrook ready to do some cutting

Eagles running back Westbrook ready to do some cutting
THAT BRIAN Westbrook fellow, he's always looking on the bright side.

After Westbrook acknowledged yesterday that his right high-ankle sprain and his swollen left knee continue to bother him, the Eagles' franchise back was asked if he is still able to cut effectively.

"Yeah, I'm able to make some cuts," Westbrook said.

Some cuts? Gee, that's reassuring. Kind of like hearing the pilot tell you he can fly the damaged plane through some of those threatening clouds.

With the Baltimore Ravens' defense - third in the NFL against the rush - coming up Sunday, it would be nice if Westbrook could make all or even most cuts, but since he wasn't able to practice yesterday, don't hold your breath. (Another cheery thought: What are the chances of Westbrook being able to play effectively Sunday and 4 days later, at home on Thanksgiving against the Cardinals? Right up there with Donovan McNabb chairing the rules committee, one would think.)

"I'm pretty sure it's not going to be completely healed, this week or next week or whenever," Westbrook said at his weekly news conference. "It's one of those situations where you try to get it as good as you can get it on Sunday and then play through it."

At first glance, this game sets up a little like the Eagles' 27-14 victory over the Falcons back on Oct. 26. The opposition has exceeded preseason expectations with a first-year coach (John Harbaugh now, Mike Smith then), but has beaten mostly struggling teams, and the quarterback is a surprisingly effective rookie from the Philadelphia area (Joe Flacco now, Matt Ryan then) who benefits from a run-first attack. But there might be at least one big difference. Westbrook was the healthiest and most effective he has been all season in that Atlanta game, running for 167 yards on 22 carries, catching six passes for 42 more, scoring twice.

The Ravens are unlikely to get gashed for 167 yards by a hobbled Westbrook.

"If we take care of business around him, he can still function very well," coach Andy Reid said of Westbrook, after asserting that he would not "sit here and tell you that he's 100 percent." Reid said Westbrook wasn't practicing yesterday because the team was going inside and he didn't want Westbrook to run on artificial turf.

Many Eagles fans would tell you that Reid has a very strange notion of "taking care of business around" Westbrook. Last Sunday, in a biting wind that swirled off the Ohio River, Reid elected to call 60 pass plays and 18 runs. The Eagles faced third down 18 times and threw on every one of them, converting three. As you might have heard by now, they faced three third-and-1s, threw incomplete on all three. Bengals defenders talked afterward about being able to anticipate what the Birds would do.

"When teams, I guess, tie or beat you, they say those things. It sounds good to you guys. I don't worry about that," Reid said. "I check out what we do and I make sure we don't give away any tendencies there."

Reid acknowledged that he got away from the run game against Cincinnati when it wasn't successful early - 5 yards on five carries in the first half. Westbrook and the run game were much more effective in the second half, but Reid never readjusted his mix.

Westbrook was asked whether he lobbies Reid for more carries, more balance in the offense.

"We talk about it," he said. "We talk all the time about, 'We want to run the ball.' But at the same time, he is the coach. It's hard for us to change his mind, but I think if we had more success early on during the game, that would definitely change his mind. For us, we have to try to find a way to effectively run the ball earlier on during the game so that he'll come back to it."

Among the many mysteries attending the Eagles' inability to run effectively this season is Reid's reluctance to put the ball in Correll Buckhalter's hands in any game that Westbrook is able to hobble onto the field. In the two games Buckhalter started this season, with Westbrook sidelined, Buckhalter gained 159 yards on 34 carries - 4.68 yards per carry. He managed 10 carries, for 43 yards, after Westbrook was injured against Pittsburgh. In the other seven games, Buckhalter has a total of 13 carries.

Buckhalter, an Eagle since 2001, knows by heart the verbal tap dance Reid expects him to perform when reporters ask about wanting the ball more.

"I don't even worry about it," said Buckhalter, who took a screen pass 44 yards early in the second quarter at Cincinnati. He touched the ball once more, on a 3-yard run in the second half. "When an opportunity presents itself, I present maximum effort and I just know my role. If I get the ball 20 times or I get it five, I'm still going to give the same effort."

But with Westbrook dinged, doesn't Buckhalter wonder why he's chained to the bench?

"I really haven't thought about it," he said. "We have a lot of players on offense. It's hard to get all of us the Football. Just make things happen. As you make things happen, you'll start to get more plays."

That, of course, has not been the case for Buckhalter the past few weeks. He had two carries against the Giants, one of them a 20-yarder.

"Every running back wants the ball," Buckhalter said. "It's out of my control. When they feel they need to use me more, they will."

And, of course, there also is Lorenzo Booker, inactive the past 2 weeks. If Westbrook is considerably less than 100 percent Sunday, the Birds have to activate three running backs, don't they?

"I have no clue, to be honest with you," Booker said yesterday. Cam Cameron, the Ravens' offensive coordinator, was Booker's head coach last season with the Dolphins. "I didn't know when I was going to be inactive and I didn't know when I was going to be active." *

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 20, 2008

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