Westbrook Should No Longer Be Considered Feature Back

Written By Bob Cunningham On Monday, March 30, 2009
Brian Westbrook has been the exclusive starter of this Philadelphia Eagles team since about 2004. There have been other running backs who have gotten some carries, but for the most part he’s been the featured back.

This needs to change, and it needs to change now.

Over the past few years Westbrook has been unreliable from week-to-week and has been average at best when it comes to running between the tackles. He’s still an explosive outside runner and an unbelievable talent in the passing game, and should be utilized in that way.

The Eagles need to take a page from the NFC-rival Carolina Panther’s playbook on this one. They realized that while DeAngelo Williams is a fantastic talent, he is too small to carry the load of an NFL season on his back. Enter Jonathan Stewart and you can see the obvious explosion in Williams’ production for 2008.

Williams is younger than Westbrook, but he’s also not the same talent. In his prime, I don’t think many would argue that Westbrook was the better running back. But unfortunately his time as a featured back has come to an end.

The Eagles need to draft a running back this year who they believe can handle the bulk of the work, and not just spell Westbrook. Whether they’re thinking Moreno or Donald Brown, I’m just not sure, but it needs to be one of them.

The plan then would essentially limit Westbrook to a 1a type of role. He would see about 40 percent of the carries while the new guy (again, whomever that may be) would get roughly 55 percent of the carries with the other 5 percent going to miscellaneous carriers (Jackson, Weaver, Booker, etc.).

It boils down to Westbrook being the “2” in the 1-2 punch.

This way Westbrook would be fresh to go in on third down plays to catch the screen, take the pitch or other outside handoff, catch a pass in the flats, or simply be used as a decoy as defenses would still be forced to gameplan for him.

In the current system, defensive coordinators need only to plan for a way to stop Westbrook. Then if and when that happens, our running game is essentially useless, leading to McNabb being forced to drop back 45-55 times leading to more sacks, interceptions, and hits on our franchise quarterback.

Over the years, this is what has lead to the injuries suffered by McNabb. He has had the entire weight of the game thrust onto his shoulders because Westbrook has been shut down and there is no real alternative other than just passing and hoping for the best.

The simple fact of the matter is that Westbrook is at the age where running backs start to rapidly decline in production. Westbrook may not be in the same boat because he was not a featured back for the first two or three years of his career while splitting carries as a part of the three-headed monster with Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter. Still, 30 is a rough age for a back.

Being limited to more of a specialist role on offense helps Westbrook and the entire offense in every conceivable way. He stays fresher, adding years to his career and keeping him off of the injury report while the running game becomes multi-dimensional, causing more headaches for defensive coordinators than ever before.

Westbrook has done some great things, but I believe this is the way it must be for him to continue his career as an effective member of the Philadelphia Eagles. It also works as a great buffer for when the young guy must take closer to 70 percent of the snaps once Westbrook hangs up the old cleats.

Every running back pair must have a nickname, start thinking of one Philly. Hopefully, we’ll need it.

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