In a league with teams that often shroud the obvious in a cloak of mystery, the Eagles did the smart thing today by simply announcing that Brian Westbrook won't be making the cross-country trip to be a high-paid cheerleader Sunday in San Francisco.
Having a guy with two broken ribs and an ankly injury endure a long plane flight would have made no sense, simply to keep up the illusion that Westbrook might play and somehow impact the 49ers' preparation.
"Brian doesn’t need to travel ... in particular, with the pain that he’s in," coach Andy Reid said. "We’ll relieve him of any motion there and it allows [Correll Buckhalter] to get himself mentally prepared.”
The bigger issue is when Westbrook will return to the lineup and how effective he can be. The Eagles are off next week before hosting Atlanta and the chance to get Westbrook some extended rest was an obvious factor in the decision. Coach Andy Reid clearly expects the All-Pro running back to be ready after the bye.
“I think the bye week will help him," Reid said. "I think it will take some of the sting out of that thing. If he were to get hit on it this week, it would slow down the process of healing. It buys him some time so, when we get back, the ankle and ribs are ready to go. It will be smooth sailing here.”
As to the overall effectivenss of the run game, with or without Westbrook this season, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was peppered with questions during his weekly visit with the media. Here is a sampling of his responses, according to the transcript provided by the Eagles:
On whether he thinks they need to run the ball more:
“We need to run it better.”
On why the rushing attack hasn’t been as good this year:
“We just haven’t done quite as good a job with that. When there is a problem, we identify the problem and correct it and then we move on to the next game. I would expect our run game to get better as the season goes on here.”
On what problems he has identified in the run game:
“There are many. I’m not going to get into the details. We kind of base our foundation on hard work and preparation. If there is a problem, let’s identify it and correct it and let’s move on fast. We have done a good job of that up to date; we will see if we can do that this time.”
On whether he is surprised that the offensive line hasn’t been as strong this season:
“Well, the run game starts with the offensive line. They have to play well as a unit to give us a chance. However, the tight end and the fullback are heavily involved. Those two positions can make a good run game into a great run game. The receivers are involved and they can make the five, six, eight-yard carries get into the 20 and 30-yard range. The quarterback is important with the ball handling and the audibles and checks and some faking. The most important thing is the ball carrier, with breaking tackles and making people miss. Everybody is involved in that thing. Everybody is involved in it. There is no one position or one player. We do that as a team and that run game is important to us. It is important to winning. We do that as a team.”
On whether a lack of stability in the starting lineup has affected the run game:
“We can make all the reasons up that we want. We expect the players who are in there to perform well and get it done. There have been situations where we haven’t. We certainly need to identify that and correct it and move on to this game. We have done that, so we’ll see if we can do that this week and further down the road. We need to get better there.”