For Correll Buckhalter, Sunday’s game was a microcosm of the disappointment that he experienced all season with a lack of opportunities.
Buckhalter, a free agent, showed flashes of brilliance in his limited chances, fueling questions about why he was not used more often. In two starts in the absence of Brian Westbrook, Buckhalter rushed for a combined 159 yards against Pittsburgh and Chicago.
But he was used sparingly after that except for the late regular-season games against Cleveland and Dallas, both of which were lopsided. His 76 carries were 14 more than last season but still 20 below his career average.
It was no surprise to Buckhalter then that his number was called just four times on Sunday.
“Well, Westbrook only got 12 carries,” Buckhalter said, “so I can’t expect to get 10.
“It was out of my hands. I did everything they asked. I practiced hard. It’s up to the coach, in the end, to see how many plays you’re going to play.
“If you don’t get that many opportunities, what can you do besides stand and cheer,” Buckhalter asked.
Now a full three seasons removed from his torn patella tendon and previous ACL injuries, Buckhalter erased his health question marks that lingered when he was last a free agent in 2007.
This year Buckhalter wants a promised bigger role in an offense – be it Philadelphia or elsewhere.
“Ever since I came here [in 2001], I’ve wanted to be a starter in this league,” Buckhalter said. “If the opportunity presents itself somewhere where I can start, naturally I’m going to take that. That was my goal.
“To play 3 years now injuryfree, I think it is a lot better situation coming into free agency than where I was last time. When free-agent time comes, I will try to put everything in perspective.”
It just doesn’t seem likely that behind Westbrook on the depth chart, Buckhalter will get that opportunity with the Eagles.
“It’s not realistic,” Buckhalter said. “He is one of the better running backs in the league and he still has a lot left in him.”
But he wouldn’t be opposed to a dedicated two-back system, should the Eagles decide to run that route in the offseason. Would that be something that the pass happy Eagles would consider?
“Most of the teams in this league use a two-back system” Buckhalter said. “It keeps the players fresh and it keeps defenses off balance as well. It’s just up to the team and the coaches to make that decision.
“If I’m here, they’re going to get everything out of me.”
- Frank Seravalli