Brian Westbrook: What He Brings to the San Francisco 49ers
The Brian Westbrook Watch finally comes to an end as ESPN reports that the San Francisco 49ers, not the Rams, came to terms with the veteran running back. Rumors had continued to swirl, connecting the back to the St. Louis Rams, but the recent surprise retirement from second year running back Glen Coffee, as well as the unforgiving playing surface in St. Louis undoubtedly swayed Westbrook.
Brian Westbrook had spent his entire NFL career as a Philadelphia Eagle, but was released this past offseason after injuries and concussions had taken their toll. He played in only eight games this past season, rushing 61 times for 274 yards and one touchdown, while hauling in 25 passes for 181 and a touchdown
Westbrook is a two time Pro Bowl running back and was once considered the fulcrum in Andy Reid's version of the West Coast offense. Westbrook has carried the ball 1,308 times for 5,995 yards an average of 4.6 yards per carry. As a receiver, his talents were top-notch as he has caught 426 passes for 3,790 yards, an average of 8.9 yards per catch 29 receiving TDs.
He is a complete back in every sense of the word, and the San Francisco 49ers just may have cemented their place as NFC West favorites this year with just one move.
On a San Francisco 49er squad, Westbrook becomes the safety valve and becomes one of their best receivers.
If he's healthy and can stay healthy, the Niners just may have the most dynamic rushing duo in the NFC West in Gore and Westbrook. Westbrook has the ability to run in between the tackles, but his true calling card is in the screen play. Long a staple of the Eagles offense, this play acts like a running play to help minimize third and long situations.
Where this helps the Niners, and specifically Frank Gore, is the added element of talent and capabilities will help round out the offense. Where Gore is more of a traditional power running back with elusive capabilities, Brian Westbrook provides a dynamic that Niner fans just have not seen since a guy named Watters was in the backfield.
Jimmy Raye is probably reorganizing his playbook now, with an added priority on plays that maximize Westbrook's talents. He's really that good.
Despite his stature, Westbrook is also an excellent pass protector and very good at picking up the blitz. When you pass as much as the Eagles have, if you can't pickup the blitz as a running back, you aren't playing. This of course was probably a huge factor in the front office's minds moving forward, because the rookie Dixon is not at this time a full three down running back.
If the Niners want to field a complete offense that truly does not tip it's hand at the line; this element is crucial especially when you have Alex Smith taking snaps.
Of course, Westbrook's impact will be very little if he cannot stay healthy—which is the big question in the entire transaction. He has only played 22 games in the past two NFL seasons combined. As his problems the last two years were concussions, the coaching staff will have to take care in how they utilize him to ensure maximum impact.
In my opinion, having watched Westbrook closely his entire career this move is a perfect one for the 49ers. They had to give up no assets in trade, and a one-year deal is perfect to see what Westbrook still has in the tank.
If he's healthy? I'd say its about half full still.
How do you guys feel?
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