Hot Topic and Player Notes

Hot Topic and Player Notes

One of the more disconcerting aspects of the play of the Eagles offense the past two games has been the lack of production from running back Brian Westbrook.

In the Eagles' first three games, against Atlanta, San Francisco and Oakland, the versatile Westbrook racked up 439 rushing and receiving yards on 56 touches, an average of 7.8 yards per touch. His 208 yards from scrimmage against the Raiders in Week 3 gave him 14 straight games with 100-plus combined rushing and receiving yards.

But in the Eagles' two games before the bye week, Westbrook wasn't a factor. In the Eagles' come-from-behind 37-31 Week 4 win over Kansas City, he rushed for just 15 yards on nine carries and caught six passes for 33 yards.

Last week, in the Eagles' 33-10 loss to Dallas, Westbrook finished with just 36 rushing and receiving yards.

Despite the presence of wide receiver Terrell Owens, Westbrook is the key to the Eagles offense. He is an invaluable receiver, and coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress love to move him around the formation to create coverage mismatches against linebackers and safeties.

What's interesting is that Westbrook's lack of production the last two games really hasn't had as much to do with defenses successfully defending him as the Eagles just not using him enough.

Against the Cowboys, he was open all day, but quarterback Donovan McNabb either didn't see him or threw bad passes. Westbrook completely undressed Cowboys safety Roy Williams on a wheel route out of the backfield and would have had an easy touchdown, but McNabb was flushed out of the pocket just when Westbrook broke open. Later, Westbrook was wide open in the end zone, but McNabb didn't see him. Another time, Westbrook broke free down the seam, but McNabb's pass was a tad too long.

GOOD NEWS

Third-year wide receiver Greg Lewis continues to play well for the Eagles. Lewis is fourth on the team in receptions with 21. He's had at least three catches in each of the Eagles' five games so far.

An undrafted free agent out of Illinois, Lewis became a starter in August when Todd Pinkston went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon. With opposing defenses often rolling their coverage toward Terrell Owens and double-teaming running back Brian Westbrook, Lewis has taken advantage of the one-on-one opportunities he's gotten.

Lewis is one of just five undrafted wide receivers currently starting in the league. The other four are Rod Smith of Denver, Eric Parker of San Diego, David Patten of Washington and Drew Bennett of Tennessee.

"From the first day he got here, he believed he could make the team," said Eagles vice-president of player personnel Tom Heckert, who signed Lewis even though he wasn't even a starter at Illinois. Lewis played behind Brandon Lloyd, now with San Francisco, and his cousin, Walter Young, who is on Pittsburgh's practice squad.

"Some of these (free agent) guys, they look around and pretty much throw in the towel. But he thought he could play and (he) went out and played like he belonged here," Heckert said.

BAD NEWS

Despite the presence of three Pro Bowlers in their secondary, the Eagles have given up seven touchdown passes in the last three games, including three in their 33-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

It was the first time the Eagles have allowed three TD passes in a game in 35 regular-season games, going back to 2003.

Part of the problem has been an inconsistent pass rush. With defensive tackle Darwin Walker out for the last three games with a thigh injury, the Eagles haven't gotten much inside push from the tackle position. That's allowed opponents to double-team left end Jevon Kearse, who has just one sack this season.

But even when the Eagles have gotten pressure, the secondary has been inconsistent. Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard had a horrible game against the Cowboys. He was beaten repeatedly by Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn.

"We've got to cover better than we've been covering and we need to pressure (the quarterback) better than we've been pressuring," said defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

PLAYER NOTES

--DT Darwin Walker is expected to return to the lineup Sunday against San Diego after missing the last three games with a thigh injury.

--DT Mike Patterson, who has started the last three games at right tackle in place of injured Darwin Walker, will rotate in off the bench Sunday now that Walker is healthy again. Patterson, who has two sacks, still will get a significant amount of snaps.

--LB Zeke Moreno, who was signed last week, was brought in to bolster the Eagles' struggling special teams. Moreno is a good special teams player.

--LB Keith Adams will continue to be used on special teams in addition to his duties as the club's starting weakside linebacker.

--RB Brian Westbrook hopes to get a few more touches Sunday than he's gotten in the last two games. He's had just 24 touches in the Eagles' last two games.

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