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Thursday, June 4, 2009
Options for Eagles to consider at running back


Posted by ESPN's Sal Paolantonio

PHILADELPHIA -- In light of ankle surgery for Brian Westbrook, should the Eagles be in the market for a veteran running back?

Westbrook is having bone spurs in his right ankle removed Friday by Dr. Mark Myerson of Baltimore in a procedure called "debridement," which is essentially a clean-out of dead debris around his joint. Most orthopedic surgeons will tell you that Westbrook will not be able to run on that ankle for about six weeks. Two weeks of running and conditioning puts Westbrook on the doorstep of training camp, which opens for Eagles veterans July 29.

It is not unreasonable to believe that Westbrook will be held out of any contact drills at camp in the early stages and probably will not play for the first two preseason games.

In the meantime, that would be a heavy workload to put on backups Lorenzo Booker and rookie LeSean McCoy. Both are smallish backs: Booker is 5-foot-10, 191 pounds; McCoy is 5-10, 198. Before the season starts, that will be a lot of wear and tear on two backs who have yet to prove they can handle it. The Eagles have six more OTA practices until they break for the summer. Booker and McCoy will report to training camp with the rookies and selected veterans July 26.

Last year, Booker could not get on the field because he was an ineffective blocker and could not break tackles in the interior. He had just 20 carries for 53 yards and no touchdowns. At Pitt, the knock on McCoy was his blocking, which is critical in the Eagles' West Coast offense. If he can't pick up the blitz, he won't stay on the field very long.

And what if Westbrook, who already had offseason surgery on his left knee, has another setback? He turns 30 on Sept. 2. He is coming off his least productive year as an Eagle, especially in the playoffs, when he rushed for just 2.4 yards a carry, well below his postseason career average of 4.6 yards a pop.

So, whom can the Eagles target? They are $23 million under the NFL salary cap, the fifth-most cap room in the league. So, it's financially doable. Here is a list of free agents out there:

Sal Paolantonio is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Philadelphia