Brian Westbrook Surgery: Panic or Profit?

David StoutContributor IJune 5, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 1: Running back Brian Westbrook #36 (R) stands on the sideline with second round draft pick running back LeSean McCoy #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles during minicamp at the NovaCare Complex on May 1, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Brian Westbrook will undergo a procedure called a "debridement" today. Various sources compare this procedure to scraping plaque off of teeth. It hardly sounds like a vexing procedure, but it does raise some questions.

Is Westbrook succumbing to the dreaded 30-year-old running back decline?

How much longer will Westbrook be toting the rock for the beloved Eagles?

How much is this procedure really going to hinder Westbrook this season?

These are all valid questions and concerns, however, the most pressing question is: Are the young guns gong to take advantage of this time in the "spotlight?"

Assuming LeSean McCoy is the No. 2 running back here, who emerges as No. 3?

First, let's examine McCoy and what we can hope to expect from him. 

McCoy, drafted with the 21st pick in the second round, was an extremely valuable pick at that spot. Considering his collegiate career, he looks as though he may have what it takes to contribute at this level. But he wasn't a first-round pick, so what can we really expect?

The second round has produced a number of good running backs in the NFL. Since 2002, the second round of the NFL draft has produced 16 running backs. Matt Forte, LenDale White, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ladell Betts, and Clinton Portis, to name a few. 

If McCoy is to be compared with these NFL running backs, he must take advantage in the remaining camps this week and next. He'll be running with the number ones, so he'll have plenty of opportunity to show just how much of a steal he was. 

After McCoy, your guess is as good as mine. 

Common sense says Lorenzo Booker has to have the early nod, but if last year is any indication, no one has the nod right now. Booker, an early third-round pick in 2007, came to the Eagles in exchange for a fourth-round pick in a trade with the Miami Dolphins during the 2008 draft. 

Booker shined in early camps and looked like a decent guy to spell Westbrook when needed. However, that shine didn't last. 

Later that year, Booker, in the NFC Championship, found himself on the inactive list, not even considered in any game plan. 

So assuming Booker's status at the end of last year is an indication of things to come, who else is there? 

Eldra Buckly, a 2007 rookie free-agent signing of the San Diego Chargers, looks to be next in line. But what do we know about Buckly? Virtually nothing. The 5' 9", 207-pound running back out of Tennessee-Chattanooga has not had a single carry in the NFL. 

Then there's Walter Mendenhall. The 6'0", 227-pound running back out of Illinois State is another rookie free agent on this squad. 

Mendenhall spent four years at Illinois before transferring to Illinois State. Once he got there, he was subject to a coaching staff eager to get their young guys on the field, and he was not given a starting position. 

Mendenhall saw only 15 carries in the first five weeks of the season. Three of those weeks, he saw no time at all. 

But when the starting running back went down with an injury, Mendenhall was given his opportunity. He never looked back. Mendenhall finished with 126 carries for 796 yards and 11 touchdowns. In only eight games. WOW!!!

Talk about seizing the opportunity. 

There have even been whispers around the league claiming that he was even better than his brother Rashard. Really? If he's half as good, I'd put him down as a lock to win the third spot. 

Last, there's Kyle Eckel. He's listed as a fullback, and is probably a better fit there. 

Eckel, yet another rookie free agent, was originally signed by the Patriots. He spent time on the Miami Dolphins as well. The Eagles signed him in late October last year, and boy did he pay off. 

Short yardage had become one of the many Achilles heals for the 2008 Eagles squad, and Eckel provided the answer. Eckel had five carries last year with four of them on 3rd- or 4th-and-short situations. He converted all four opportunities. 

Though seeing some time and succeeding with this squad last year, Eckel is going to have to make his mark on special teams. 

The signing of Leonard Weaver has made a situation for Eckel that's going to be tough for him to make this team as any kind of offensive backer. 

It looks as though we've got some promising options for a third back on this Eagles squad. A frontrunner needs to emerge in the absence of Westbrook. 

These next few practices should provide us with an answer of what we can expect to see, and I for one, am very excited about the possibilities.   



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