Youngsters could bring explosiveness to Eagles

<B>Explosiveness is one thing that the Eagles offense has been lacking since Andy Reid took over as head coach. Explosiveness is what keeps defenses on their heals throughout games. Explosiveness is what makes good offenses great. And explosiveness is what the Eagles hope Guys like Brian Westbrook, Todd Pinkston, L.J Smith and Billy McMullen can bring to their offense.</B>

If there is one thing that held the Eagles lack these past two years, it has been a go-to, sure-handed wide receiver as well as a lack of explosion on the offensive side of the ball. The Eagles, thanks in large part to the past three draft classes, think that they have both of those problems solved. The explosion will come in the form of second-year running back Brian Westbrook out of Villanova. Although the competition there is much different than that of the NFL, Westbrook became acclimated to the speed in his rookie season. He didn't just learn about speed, he showed speed. Unlike current starter Duce Staley, Westbrook has the game-breaking ability to score from anywhere on the field, whether it be taking a handoff or returning a punt. He is a weapon whenever he touches the ball, and experience in the league will just make him more potent.

Westbrook will be joined in the backfield by Staley, and another youngster; Correll Buckhalter. In his rookie season two years ago, Buckhalter showed the league that he has the ability to have a very successful career. He broke the team record for rushing in a season by a rookie, and seemed on the fast track for a starting job and just steps away from greatness. However, not everything goes as planned, and in last season's spring minicamp, he tore his ACL, one of the most devastating injuries a running back can suffer. Although he missed all of last season, he practiced with the team during the stretch run, making sure he will be ready for a comeback this year. After two mini-camps in 2003, he says he feels about 95%, which means two things; The first is that he will see a lot of carries to give Staley a rest and, that by adding him to the mix along with Duce and Westbrook, the Eagles have a backfield with speed, size, and strength and will be around for a long time.

The running backs and Donovan McNabb can't do it alone though, they need some help via tight end and wide receiver. With the expected emergence of Todd Pinkston this year, it seems as if McNabb will have a deep threat as well as a go-to guy. However, more help is needed, and once again it is expected to come from younger players. Billy McMullen, a 6-4 rookie out of UVA, is expected to compete for the slot receiver, and it's no wonder why. Being 6-4, he can win almost any jump ball and is a perfect target in the red zone. Given time to add knowledge of the offense as well as bulking up, McMullen can be a dominating receiver as shown by his play at Virginia.

Another rookie, tight end L.J. Smith, is expected to contribute to the offense as well. Behind incumbent starter Chad Lewis, Smith will need to learn the intricacies of the NFL, and coming from Rutgers, that could take some time. However, his athletic talent is undeniable, and unlike Lewis, defenses will soon need to game plan to stop Smith because once he gets the ball in his hands, he has the speed of a receiver.

All of these players are key pieces to the puzzle that have been missing the past few years. Besides McNabb, there weren't any real threats; however now with the new young phase the Eagles have playmakers all over the field. Hopefully, they will be the missing pieces needed to take the next step towards a Super Bowl championship.


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