Westbrook has Rams' attention
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Sep. 05 2008
After a big game, it's not unusual for NFL running backs to take their
offensive line out to dinner.
After a big 2007 season, Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook went one better — one
giant step better. He sent his offensive line and their families on vacation.
"Because they've done such a great job for me, and helped me be the type of
player that I want to be, I wanted to reward them as well as their wives to
take a trip and enjoy themselves and get away from football a little bit,"
"They had the option to go wherever they wanted to. And some guys took
advantage of that. ... They went all over the place."
On Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, it's up to the Rams' defense to make sure
Westbrook doesn't get his line started on another "vacation" season. Easier
said then done, of course. Westbrook doesn't get the notoriety and acclaim of
some of the other elite backs around the league, but make no mistake, he has
the Rams' full attention this week.
"I personally think he's one of the top three backs in the league," defensive
back Ron Bartell said.
"The whole focal point, I think, will be Westbrook," defensive end Leonard
More than Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb?
"I think moreso, Little replied. "For us to win this game, we're going to have
to slow Westbrook down."
Westbrook certainly has the numbers to merit such praise. He set a franchise
record for receptions last season (90), as well as a franchise mark for yards
from scrimmage (2,104). With 1,333 rushing yards and 771 receiving yards,
Westbrook became just the third player in NFL history with 1,300 yards rushing
and 750 receiving in the same season.
The other two? Former Ram Marshall Faulk and current Ram Steven Jackson. Faulk
did it twice with St. Louis and once with Indianapolis. Jackson did it once, in
So what does Westbrook do for an encore after a career year that resulted in a
lucrative contract extension?
"That's the challenge for Brian," said Eagles coach Andy Reid. "He's done so
well over the last few years and continued to get better. So his challenge is
to do even a better job and even surpass the numbers that he put up last
(year). That's the way he approached the offseason. He's worked very hard, even
through the contract situation that he was rewarded with for his great play."
In part because he is similar in size — at 5 feet 10 and 203 pounds — Westbrook
has drawn comparisons to Faulk. But the similarities extend beyond physical
"His style's somewhat like Marshall used to be," Little said. "He's very hard
to tackle. He has a low center of gravity."
"He can hide behind that big offensive line a little bit," defensive tackle
La'Roi Glover said. "And in the open field, he's got all the moves. He's got
the spin. He's got the jumps, the cuts, he's got the solid straight-arm."
The interesting thing about Westbrook's development as a player is that he
hasn't always been the every-down, workhorse type. He didn't have more than 177
carries (11 per game) until 2006, his fifth season in the league. In those
earlier years, he was used a lot as a third-down back, a change-of-pace runner,
and someone that offensive play-callers tried to isolate in the open field.
"You always thought of him as more of a ... 'loose-play' back, where he's
always catching screens, and lining up playing receiver, and occasionally
carrying the ball inside but a lot of outside stuff," coach Scott Linehan said.
"Now, he's got the ball in his hands every which way. ... What he's become now,
he's really become that runner."
In fact, only eight running backs had more carries than Westbrook's 278 last
A lot of teams try to defend Westbrook with an extra defensive back on the
field, shadowing him wherever he goes. Now that Westbrook has evolved into an
every-down back, the danger is that with one less linebacker on the field,
defenses can get pushed around more easily by Philadelphia's big offensive line.
But play the Eagles straight up, with four defensive backs and three
linebackers, and you're likely to have a linebacker trying to defend Westbrook
on passing plays.
"I think it's a good idea for teams to try to cover me with a linebacker,"
In Westbrook's world, that's what amounts to a gridiron vacation.
Re: Westbrook has Rams' attention
Actually I like our speed at linebacker. Which should be a big factor in containing both Westbrook and McNabb.