Gotta be a running back

Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno is one of the players the Eagles could be targeting in this weekend's NFL draft. (AP / File photo)

I will not pretend to know Knowshon Moreno's projected ability as an NFL player. There are people in the league who are paid good money to throw that dart and make that guess -- and it is that, an educated guess, nothing more.

But I will repeat what I have been saying since the day the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs by the Arizona Cardinals: they need to come out of this off-season with a running back who can step in and play immediately.

I know everybody in town wants a wide receiver. But go game-by-game last year and really look at it -- look at the situations where many of the games turned -- and the Eagles' depth at running back was their greatest problem. When Brian Westbrook limped, they were limp. They had Correll Buckhalter last year and they had Tony Hunt for part of last year and it wasn't enough. They weren't good enough all-around backup running backs. They didn't know the plays. They couldn't pick up blitzes. They couldn't be trusted, not enough, when Westbrook was nicked. And now both of them are gone and Westbrook is coming off of what has been described as minor off-season knee surgery. There is no backup plan currently in place that is worth talking about.

They do have until August to find somebody. But given Westbrook's history, the somebody can't just be anybody. I remember they got Dorsey Levens late one summer, and he was decent, but this is a big spot here and waiting that long is an enormous risk. It is not a risk they can afford to take.

So they need a running back, and he needs to be camera-ready. The Eagles cannot afford to get out-maneuvered here and they cannot allow the vagaries of draft day -- "there's a run on running backs!" -- to prevent them from doing this.

History says it won't be a first-round guy. But the Eagles have never faced the current set of imperatives: a crying need and the certainty that the guy is going to have to play immediately.  Could a second- or third-round guy play right away? Sure. Could a second- or third-round guy be a better value in the long run? Sure. The league is full of just such guys, including Westbrook.

But the odds get longer the longer they wait, and the Eagles cannot miss on this. Cannot. Because this isn't a rebuilding team, not with Donovan McNabb at quarterback. This is all about now, about right now.

With that, draft away.