The undefeated Eagles have lost the player they could least afford to lose.
Running back Brian Westbrook is expected to miss Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens after suffering a minute fracture of his first rib in last weekend's 34-31 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns.
Westbrook was injured when Browns end Kenard Lang beat a block by tight end L.J. Smith and tackled the 5-8 1/2, 200-pounder from behind.
Westbrook is listed as questionable for the Ravens game on the club's Wednesday injury report. But there is no chance he'll play against one of the league's most physical defenses.
While the addition of wide receiver Terrell Owens has provided a much-needed spark to the Eagles' passing game, opposing players and coaches consider Westbrook the key to the offense. He was averaging 5.1 yards per carry and was second on the team in receptions with 31. His ability to create coverage mismatches against linebackers and safeties put enormous pressure on opposing defenses and made if difficult for them to focus on Owens.
"Brian is a big part of our football team," coach Andy Reid said. "But if he can't play Sunday, we move on. That's what we've always done. We have a couple of guys who would love to get in and play a little bit more."
The problem is those "guys" are exactly that -- just guys. Thirty-four-year-old Dorsey Levens, who was signed late in the preseason after Correll Buckhalter went down with a torn ACL, is expected to start against the Ravens. Second-year man Reno Mahe also will rotate in.
While he rushed for 48 yards on seven carries last week against the Browns, Levens' NFL tank is near empty. Mahe, a former wide receiver, made the club last season as an undrafted free agent and has been used mostly as a punt-return specialist. While the Eagles can use him similarly to the way they used Westbrook, he isn't Westbrook.
"We're not afraid to stick (Mahe) in there whether it's in the running game or the passing game," offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. "Having been a receiver, he understands coverages and how to run routes and he's very good in the open field."
Childress said the Eagles also have confidence in the 6-1, 230-pound Levens.
"He can do everything we need him to do in the running game and he's also a very good receiver," he said.
"He still certainly has all the instincts of a good running back. At (his size) he's not an easy guy to bring down."
It's uncertain how long Westbrook will be out. Eagles trainer Rick Burholder described the injury as a non-displaced fracture. "It's lined up and so small," he said. "It's a crack, really." Westbrook also has a muscle strain in the same area.
The best guess is that the Eagles will keep Westbrook out of the next two games against the Ravens and Pittsburgh and hope he'll be able to return for the first of three straight NFC East games on November 15 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Eagles Will Attempt To Manage Without Westbrook
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