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News » Magic Touch


Magic Touch


Magic Touch
Brian Westbrook should campaign for Adrian Peterson to be his offensive coordinator.


"I would give him the ball almost every down," the Minnesota Vikings' star running back said during a conference call Wednesday. "He's the total package. He was a guy before I even came into the league that I loved watching. He does it all. He's a real nice receiver. I'd give him the ball 35 times a game."

We all know, of course, that Eagles coach Andy Reid doesn't run the Westbrook Offense. He runs the West Coast offense, and sometimes in Reid's version the running part disappears.

Peterson, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and touches in his second NFL season, may be on to something in this great Westbrook debate, which has been ongoing since the Eagles star became the team's featured running back in 2004.

Westbrook touched the ball at least 30 times in only one game this season, and it was the Eagles' signature 20-14 win over the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. He carried the Football 33 times for 131 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.

That game and that game plan are why some people say the Eagles, although fortunate even to be playing in Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, may stick around a while in the postseason.

Westbrook's touches have almost always told an interesting story during his career, and this season was no different. When he touched the ball at least 20 times, the Eagles went 7-0. When he touched it fewer than 20, they were 2-6-1, and those two wins are deceiving because Westbrook got the ball 19 times in a lopsided victory over the Cleveland Browns and 15 times in Sunday's rout of the Dallas Cowboys. In both games, he was resting on the sideline before it was over.

To be fair, there were times this season when the Eagles couldn't use Westbrook as much as they wanted because he was slowed at various times by a high ankle sprain, fractured ribs and knee swelling.

"He played with a lot of injuries that would have kept other guys on the bench," said Merrill Reese, the Eagles' veteran play-by-play radio man. "I really think he's a warrior. I think the fact that he didn't have another 1,000-yard [rushing] season was more reflective of the fact he was beaten up than anything else. But I still think he's this team's No. 1 weapon."

Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter was asked after practice yesterday to play the role of offensive coordinator. So how many times would he get the ball in Westbrook's hands?

"At least 20," Buckhalter said, completely unaware that his team hasn't lost when his teammate has touched the ball that many times.

The other part of the great running debate is how Buckhalter sometimes magically and tragically disappears from the game plan. So how many times would offensive coordinator Buckhalter give himself the ball?

"At least 10," he said.

In only four games this season did Buckhalter get double-digit touches, and three were when Westbrook didn't play or left early because of injury. In games in which Westbrook was healthy and Buckhalter got at least six touches, the Eagles were 5-0. In games in which Westbrook was healthy and Buckhalter got fewer than six carries, the Eagles were 1-5-1. That doesn't count the two games Buckhalter missed because of injury.

Westbrook's only concern now is that the Eagles remain committed to the run against the Vikings, the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense.

"Every time you run the ball, you're not going to get 20 or 30 yards right out of the gate," Buckhalter said. "Sometimes you get two or three yards, but you've got to stay with it, and eventually those will turn into that 40- or 50-yard run."

Westbrook, seated beside Buckhalter, loudly chimed in with his approval.

"Yeah, Buck," he screamed. "Tell the truth."

With the team indoors and the Vikings possessing such a stout run defense, there's some fear among Eagles fans that Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will revert to the Washington plan, which means pass first, pass often, and pass always if your team falls behind.

"They definitely could have ran [Westbrook] more this season," said Charles Veasey, a 47-year-old lifetime Eagles fan from Riverton. "I really think they need to use him and also design things for him to be deceptive so he can work in combination with Buckhalter. "I'm not confident they're going to try to run in this game, but they have to."

Eagles radio analyst Mike Quick agreed that Reid must get the ball to Westbrook even if the Vikings stopped the running game early.

"Westbrook is the guy you want to have the Football," Quick said. "That's the guy you have to ride because he can do so much in a game. I don't know if there's an actual number you have to get it to him, but you have to give it to him as much as he can handle it."

It is vital, he said, that opposing defenses begin to key on Westbrook and open things up for other offensive players, including Buckhalter.

"Teams are going to be focused on him," Quick said. "Sometimes, he's your decoy, and you get the Football somewhere else. There are enough playmakers on this team that you don't have to give him the ball all the time, but you want Westbrook to have the ball early. When you hit them enough with Westbrook, it's the Where's Waldo? effect. They start following him, and then you get the ball to DeSean [Jackson] and Kevin [Curtis] and let them make plays."

If Reid and Mornhinweg don't try to run early, Quick said, he'll be surprised.

"I'm sure Andy realizes they have to run the ball some," he said. "If you look at last week's game, it makes such a big difference in how the secondary reacts when you run the Football. Even if there's not a lot of success, you still want that reaction."

Brian Westbrook's Game Log

Date Opp., Result Att. Yds. Avg. TD Rec. Yds.TD

Sept. 7 STL, W 38-3 19 91 4.8 1 2 1 1

Sept. 15@DAL, L 41-37 18 58 3.2 2 6 45 1

Sept. 21 PIT, W 15-6 5 12 2.4 0 0 0 0

Sept. 28 @ CHI, L 24-20 - DID NOT PLAY-

Oct. 5 WAS, L 23-17 12 33 2.8 1 6 51 0

Oct. 12 @ SF, W 40-26 - DID NOT PLAY-

Oct. 26 ATL, W 27-14 22 1 67 7.6 2 6 42 0

Nov. 2 @ SEA, W 26-7 20 61 3.1 0 6 35 0

Nov. 9 NYG, L 36-31 13 26 2.0 0 3 33 0

Nov. 16 @ CIN, T 13-13 14 60 4.3 0 3 11 0

Nov. 23 @ BAL, L 36-7 14 39 2.8 0 2 -5 0

Nov. 27 ARI, W 48-20 22 110 5.0 2 3 20 2

Dec. 7 @ NYG, W 20-14 33 131 4.0 1 6 72 1

Dec. 15 CLE, W 30-10 16 53 3.3 0 3 14 0

Dec. 21 @ WAS, L 10-3 12 45 3.8 0 6 71 0

Dec. 28 DAL, W 44-6 13 50 3.8 0 2 12 0

TOTAL 233 936 4.0 9 54 402 5

Run When Ahead

Whether Eagles coach Andy Reid gives the ball to Brian Westbrook often depends on whether the Eagles are winning. Here is how that situation broke down this season:

When the Eagles were ahead: Westbrook had 117 carries for 508 yards and 6 touchdowns.

When the Eagles were ahead by 1 to 8 points: Westbrook had 51carries for 259 yards and 4 touchdowns

When the Eagles were ahead by 9 to 16 points: Westbrook had 46 carries for 149 yards and 0 touchdowns.

When the Eagles were behind: Westbrook had 60 carries for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns.

When the Eagles were behind by 1 to 8 points: Westbrook had 11 carries for 27 yards and 0 touchdowns.

When the Eagles were behind by 9 to 16 points: Westbrook had 48 carries for 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.

When the Eagles were tied: Westbrook had 56 carries for 227 yards and 1 touchdown.

SOURCE: Eagles

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577

or bbrookover@phillynews.com.



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 2, 2009

Shawn Andrews Name: Shawn Andrews
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Position: G
Age: 25
Experience: 5 years
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