It's more and more apparent that one of the problems the Eagles face is a seriously hobbled Brian Westbrook.
In the pressbox, we don't get the TV audio, so your Eagletarian had no idea what the FOX announcers were saying about Brian Westbrook until news reports repeated their assertions on Monday. Eagletarian is not surprised the announcers stressed that Westbrook is more limited right now than the team has admitted publicly.
While we don't doubt these revelations stemmed from the comfy chats with coaches the rightsholding broadcasters get for their zillions of dollars paid to the NFL, it's also true that Westbrook has very quietly been admitting as much, while trying to put the best face on it, for more than a week now. You might recall this Daily News story, written off Westbrook's radio show, in last Tuesday's paper.
This Monday, as was noted in today's Daily News, Westbrook looked alarmingly hobbled as he navigated a NovaCare corridor. We were reminded of Fred Sanford's arthritic shuffle. (In light of recent events, perhaps we could have expanded that image, with BWest declaring: "Donovan, you big dummy!")
Westbrook upped the ante again on his ESPN 950 AM radio show this week, when he explained his success Sunday on draw plays, vs. a distinct lack of success with other types of runs, by saying that his high ankle sprain and knee troubles make it much easier for him to accelerate in a straight line these days than to cut sharply.
Westbrook also noted that a high ankle sprain doesn't really heal until the season is over.
Andy Reid seems to be reacting to this situation by embracing the worst of both worlds -- he won't put Westbrook on the shelf until he heals, instead he's keeping Westbrook out there, using his injury-related ineffectiveness as an excuse to pretty much abandon the running game. Running with Correll Buckhalter or even Lorenzo Booker -- inactive two successive games now -- is not an option, somehow.
Reid explained Monday that his priority was to get Westbrook going. (??!!) Unequipped with the requisite Reidspeak secret decoder ring, your Eagletarian is unable to tell you how that assertion makes any sense, under the circumstances.
BTW, an interesting aside on Booker. You'll recall that he was highly touted by the Eagles when they traded for him from Miami last April, and he looked great in minicamp, a little less great in training camp, lost the kickoff return job to Quintin Demps after a shaky preseason effort in Pittsburgh, and then pretty much disappeared from the team's plans. He got a snap here and there early in the season, looked totally unacquainted with the concept of blocking, and did nothing with the ball in his hands, before disappearing completely.
Here is what a Miami-area reporter had to say in an e-mail exchange yesterday, when I brought up Booker's puzzling demise:
"LoBook was a weird case. Looked great in the minicamp, shirts and shorts workouts. He talked about his exhaustive film study and wanting to be the kind of multipurpose, Reggie Bush-type back. Then, couldn't catch punts in training camp practice and, in preseason games, didn't do jack. Nice guy and we all wanted him to succeed because of that.
"So, he sat on the bench for about 11 weeks. Heck, he was inactive for most of those weeks. We asked (then-head coach Cam) Cameron every week what he had to do to just get on the roster, especially once their running backs started dropping like flies in front of urinals. Finally, he got a shot and he made the most of each run or pass thrown to him, taking us from asking, 'Why isn't he playing?' to 'Why wasn't he playing?' It became an example of that staff's ineptitude."
Indeed, Booker gained 56 yards on 8 carries for the Dolphins against New England last Dec. 23, 33 on 7 against the Bengals the next week. He caught 6 passes three games in a row, and 7 (for 54 yards) in the season finale, the Bengals game. The Birds burned a fourth-round pick for this guy. Don't they have to take a longer look at him, sooner or later? They've already dismissed Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats.
Yes, Booker is built like an undersized wideout and he so far has talked a much better game than he's played. But are they in a position to overlook anybody on their roster who has any chance of helping them run the ball a little more effectively? The guy's last nongarbage time carry was in Chicago, Sept. 28, which also was the last time he caught a pass.
And it pretty much goes without saying that they could do way more with Buckhalter, as they have done whenever Westbrook sits. It's a weird mindset, that if Westbrook puts the uniform on, you can't possibly give Buckhalter more than a couple of touches.
This whole running mess really needs to be rethought bigtime, with Baltimore's defense looming.