Offense Has Weapons, If They're Healthy

If - and that's a big if - the Eagles can keep key people on their offense healthy, they have a shot at putting up some strong numbers. Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter must stay healthy though to give the Birds a fighting chance. Here's a look at how the offense stacks up.

QUARTERBACKS:
Starter - Donovan McNabb
Backups - Jeff Garcia, A.J. Feeley

Surgery repaired the sports hernia that caused McNabb to miss the final seven games last season and his psyche appears to have made a complete recovery from the beating it took during the whole Terrell Owens' soap opera. Without Owens, the Eagles will rely on a spread-the-ball-around philosophy, which will require McNabb to make smart decisions and deliver the ball accurately.

The latter isn't one of his strong points.

The only season in his career he's had a 60-plus completion percentage was '04 when he was making wonderful music with Owens. The Eagles were caught without an adequate backup for McNabb last year. They wisely went out and signed Garcia in the offseason.

RUNNING BACKS:
Starters - Brian Westbrook, Correll Buckhalter
Backups - Reno Mahe, Thomas Tapeh, Ryan Moats

Westbrook is one of the most versatile backs in the league. He is a dangerous receiver who is a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties on the outside.

But he's small and isn't a particularly good between-the-tackles runner. His durability also is a big issue. He missed the last four games of '05 with a foot sprain, then stretched ligaments in his other foot in the first pre-season game this summer and hasn't played since. The Eagles could get a backfield boost from Buckhalter, who is making an against-the-odds comeback attempt after missing three of the last four seasons with knee injuries. He looked impressive in the pre-season. Moats is talented, but fumble-prone.

TIGHT ENDS:
Starter - L.J. Smith
Backups - Matt Schobel, Andy Thorn, Mike Bartrum.

Smith is one of the league's better pass-catching tight ends and is a touch matchup for safeties and linebackers. He is coming off a 61-catch season and needs to have a big year for the passing game to be effective. The Eagles signed Schobel, another solid pass-catching TE, in the off-season and plan to pair them in a lot of two-TE formations.

WIDE RECEIVERS:
Starters - Reggie Brown, Donte' Stallworth
Backups - Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis, Jason Avant

Brown was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, catching 43 passes, and is ready, willing and able to replace Terrell Owens as McNabb's go-to receiver. He's got good top-end speed and is an excellent yards-after-the-catch receiver. The acquisition of Stallworth gives the Eagles two good yards-after-the-catch guys. Stallworth caught 70 passes last season with New Orleans and has excellent speed.

Baskett, an undrafted rookie, has earned a roster spot and is expected to see a lot of playing time. He doesn't have exceptional speed, but his size (he's 6-4) and leaping ability (he was a conference high-jump champion at New Mexico) make him tough to defend. Jabar Gaffney was expected to be the team's number three receiver, but he struggled to learn the offense and tumbled down the depth chart before being released.

OFFENSIVE LINE:
Starters - LT William "Tra" Thomas, LG Todd Herremans, C Jamaal Jackson, RG Shawn Andrews, RT Jon Runyan
Backups - Winston Justice, Max Jean-Gilles, Nick Cole, Pat McCoy, Scott Young.

The Eagles have used a lot of draft picks on offensive linemen the last couple of years and are starting to reconstruct this unit for the long haul. They just gave Andrews a ten-year contract extension. Herremans, their '05 fourth-round pick who made four starts at LT last season after Thomas went down with a back injury, will move inside to LG.

Jackson, who also was given a long-term extension right before the start of training camp, will replace the overachieving Fraley at center. He played very well in eight starts last season after Fraley went down with a shoulder injury.

Thomas, 31, is coming off major back surgery, but made it through the pre-season without any problems. If his back problems return, Herremans likely would move back outside, though second-round rookie Winston Justice had a solid summer and will eventually be given the opportunity to replace either Thomas or the 33-year-old Runyan.


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