Could Draft Day Bring A Running Back?

The Eagles relied pretty heavily on their running game last season and it worked pretty well for them. So, does that mean that a running back on day one of the draft is out of the question?

In his fifth NFL season, Brian Westbrook finally proved to everyone, including his head coach, Andy Reid, that he could be a carry-the-load running back.

Westbrook had a career-high 322 touches last year. He rushed for 1,217 yards and caught a team-high 77 passes for 699 yards. While no one ever has questioned his talent, his durability had been an issue in his first four seasons, and the Eagles were reluctant to Over use him for fear of him breaking down.

"This was a big step for him," said Reid of Westbrook. "To get through a season relatively healthy and put together a good year like he did, you go into the next year with a little more confidence and you don't have people questioning you quite as much.

"I think it always was in the back of his mind coming into the year, and now he's kind of put that to rest and he knows he can do it and everybody knows he can do it."

After quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-November, Westbrook played a major role in the Eagles' late-season resurrection that saw them win their final five regular-season games and capture their fifth division title in the last six years.

Without McNabb, the Eagles relied on Westbrook and the run more to help McNabb's replacement, Jeff Garcia. Reid has indicated that, even with McNabb expected to be ready for the start of training camp, the Eagles will continue to run the ball.

"I've said this before, the closer you keep (the run-pass ratio) to 50-50 or 60-40, the better off you are," Reid said. "(The play-calling) probably will be very similar to how we finished the season."

Besides taking a bigger role in the offense, Westbrook also took a bigger leadership role in the locker room late last season. The normally quiet Westbrook became one of the team's leaders after McNabb's injury.

"That was a neat thing to see because he is such a quiet guy, and he stepped up big," Reid said. "When he spoke, people listened. I thought that was a big step for him."

So, will the Eagles use a first-day draft pick on a running back?

"There's a chance. I mean, there's a chance," said Reid.

The Eagles' decision to re-sign Correll Buckhalter would seem to indicate that they won't spend a first-day draft pick on a running back. Buckhalter, who had missed three of the previous four seasons with knee injuries, did a solid job as Brian Westbrook's backup last season. He carried the ball 83 times and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. "We slowly fed him into the mix last season," Reid said. "Hopefully, he comes in this year and picks up where he left off and we can give him some more snaps."


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