Oh the weeks of quiet leading up to training camp and the questions that one begins to think of. I am knocking on wood as I pose this question.
In 2008, are the Eagles better prepared to survive an injury to Donovan McNabb or Brian Westbrook?
I believe that the current make-up of the team and depth at the running back position would allow the Eagles to better handle an injury to Westbrook.
If Westbrook were to go down with an injury, the Eagles have suitable replacements in Lorenzo Booker and Correll Buckhalter. There is talent in the back-ups.
If reports are true, Booker provides a similar elusive running style and great hands out of the backfield. Buckhalter showed last year that when given the ball on a consistent basis he can produce. The Giants game provides a great example of this. Buckhalter is also another year removed from his last knee injury.
This is not to say that Westbrook is easily replaceable. Westbrook is one of the best all around backs in the league, a possible league MVP, the star of the Eagles’ offense. You can’t teach or duplicate his big play ability.
But without Westbrook the game can still be managed. Touches can be distributed by McNabb to the receivers, backs, and tight ends. It is not out of the question for Curtis, Brown, or LJ Smith to step up. If necessary, McNabb could also use his legs as a weapon.
Points might be tougher to come by, but the offense would not completely sputter. With the off-season additions to the defense, the defense should always have the team within striking distance. Heck, the defense might even win a few games on their own this year.
If McNabb were to go done with an injury, the Eagles would be left with Kolb and Feeley at quarterback. With McNabb under center a return to the top of the NFC East is a strong possibility. With Kolb or Feeley under center a repeat as division basement dwellers is almost guaranteed.
Kolb has taken only a few snaps in a regular season game, while the play and skills of Feeley continue to show why he is nothing more than a NFL back-up. A quality, experienced back-up like Jeff Garcia is no longer an option. The drop off from starter to back-up is huge.
The quarterback manages the game. For the other offensive stars to shine, the quarterback must get them the ball. Without McNabb, do you really feel comfortable depending on Kolb and Feeley? After initial flashes of brilliance last year, Feeley was more apt to hit the opposition with a pass than the Eagles receivers.
Though McNabb is entering the final years of his prime, he is still a weapon. Without McNabb in the line-up, the effectiveness of Westbrook would diminish. Opposing teams would only need to worry about stopping Westbrook to shut down the Eagles offense. Curtis, Brown, and Smith are no longer weapons if the quarterback can’t get them the ball.
Again, we wish nothing but a healthy season for both McNabb and Westbrook. But if the injury bug were to bite one of them, success can still be managed without Westbrook. The same could not be said with Kolb or Feeley under center.