By Bo Mitchell, Managing Editor
August 20, 2004 10:00 PM ET
Two years ago, running back Correll Buckhalter tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact injury during training camp and missed the entire 2002 season.
Friday night in Philadelphia, as the Eagles hosted the Ravens in a preseason game, history nearly repeated itself. About half way through the first quarter, Buckhalter took a handoff from Donovan McNabb, gained two yards, tried to make a cut, and crumpled to the ground clutching his right knee.
Another non-contact knee injury before the season; and the news on this one isn't any better. Tests revealed Buckhalter tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, an injury that will end his season before it starts…again.
Duce Staley signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason, turning last year's three-headed running back monster into a two-headed monster. Now it's down to one.
The Eagles' running game now rests on the shoulders of Brian Westbrook. Splitting the touches three ways last year, Westbrook still managed 11 touchdowns. He was a top-20 running back prior to Buck's injury; he's a borderline top-15 back now.
At just 5-8 and 200 pounds, it's certainly fair to question whether Westbrook will be able to take the kind of pounding that comes with being a feature back. Last year Westbrook, Buckhalter, and Staley combined for 2,466 yards from scrimmage and 29 total touchdowns. It's ridiculous to even suggest that Westbrook would approach those numbers on his own just because the other two are no longer around to split the touches.
The guess here is that the Eagles will simply need to rely more on McNabb and the passing game this season. Having Terrell Owens, who was on the business end of an 81-yard touchdown strike from McNabb on their first play from scrimmage on Friday, will certainly help.
You could make an argument to draft Westbrook ahead of the likes of Rudi Johnson, Thomas Jones, even Stephen Davis. His draft day value is now toward the end of a group of backs that includes Marshall Faulk, Michael Bennett, Kevan Barlow, and Corey Dillon.
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