Are the Philadelphia Eagles Making a Mistake Passing on James and Dunn?

Dan ParzychSenior Writer IJuly 24, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 1: Running back Brian Westbrook #36 of the Philadelphia Eagles practices during mini camp at the NovaCare Complex on May 1, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

Throughout his seven-year career, Eagles running back Brian Westbrook has been known as a work-horse for his ability to perform on the football field, despite dealing with numerous injuries. However, there is something different in 2009 as the former All-Pro running back enters his eighth season.

Westbrook’s offseason ankle surgery has left the city of Philadelphia worried about whether or not he will be healthy enough to play when the Eagles travel down to Carolina Sept. 13 to play the Panthers. Even though he is ahead of schedule to be ready for Week One, there seems to be a cloud of concern of what could happen if Westbrook is unable to play.

For the last couple of seasons, the Eagles have been able to rely on Correll Buckhalter when Westbrook was dealing with injuries. His signing with Denver in the offseason left a void for a No. 2 running back to rely on when it comes to veteran and leadership experience.

Despite dealing with knee injuries that kept him sidelined three of his first five seasons with the Eagles, Buckhalter managed to stay healthy from 2006-08 and was a solid backup for Westbrook. In 44 games as Westbrook’s backup, he rushed for 1,027 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns.

In the 2009 NFL draft, the Eagles used their second-round pick (53rd overall) to select LeSean McCoy out of the University of Pittsburgh to backup Westbrook. In two seasons with the Panthers, McCoy rushed for 2,816 yards and 35 touchdowns.

There is major potential for McCoy and the Eagles in the future when Westbrook decides to hang up the cleats and call it a career. However, if Westbrook were to miss any games this upcoming season, there would be questions surrounding whether or not McCoy is ready to handle being a No. 1 running back in the NFL.

His numbers in his two seasons with the Panthers were unbelievable. However, he is still just 20 years old, and there is a major difference between playing in the NFC East and the Big East. He will most likely need a few years to develop before he becomes a threat at running back in the NFL.

Earlier this week, the Eagles released a statement that they would not sign veteran running backs Edgerrin James or Warrick Dunn, two guys who have been well-known throughout their career as starting running backs.

James was released by the Arizona Cardinals at the end of April upon his request. In his 10-year career, he has rushed for 12,121 yards and 80 touchdowns. He is also a four-time Pro Bowler and led the league in rushing yards in 1999 (1,553) and 2000 (1,709).

Dunn is in a similar situation with James, as he was released from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in February. Before 2008, he spent six seasons playing for the Atlanta Falcons, but requested a release after the team signed running back Michael Turner before the season.

In his 12-year career, Dunn has rushed for 10,967 yards and 49 touchdowns. He may not have the same statistics as James, but Dunn has shown strong leadership as a running back throughout his career.

Are the Eagles making a mistake by not signing one of these veteran running backs for insurance on Westbrook? McCoy has potential, but the Eagles are years away before McCoy has the significant impact at running back we see in Westbrook.

James or Dunn would have been a great addition for the Eagles to have another veteran running back on the roster. Even if Westbrook stays healthy, both players could have made small contributions to a team that some analysts have picked to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIV.

The Eagles seem to be pretty confident in their decision to pass up on these two running backs. Hopefully, Westbrook will stay healthy enough and Joe Banner doesn’t look back to this week kicking himself.