We're at that point in the offseason where every year we all try to convince ourselves that this will be the year the Eagles change the way they use their running backs. We've all pretty much given up on having them run the ball more, which then leads to the next point -- using more than one of them at the same time.
We do this every single year. New guy comes in, we talk about how the Eagles could create some mismatches by using them both at the same time ... then nothing changes, Westbrook carries the whole load, and the other guys only come out when Brian needs a breather.
Which is why I'm having a hard time believing that Lorenzo Booker is going to make this big an impact this year:
And the running backs -- all of them -- are going to be front and center in the equation. We don't know how many halfbacks the Eagles will keep -- Tony Hunt and Ryan Moats are still very definitely in the big picture right now. In one vision, the offense goes through the backs. How many times in a game will Westbrook and Booker play at the same time and force the defense to shift where it doesn't want to go?
Talk all you want about McNabb, or about the wide receivers and debate how effective this offense is going to be. Me, I'm staring at what could be a special situation at halfback.
Let's look at the history there. Have the Eagles at any point in the last few seasons really used two halfbacks at the same time as anything more than a gimmick? Moats? Nope. Hunt? Nope. Buckhalter, the one guy they actually trust to put out there? Rarely.
It's gotten to the point where the Eagles so seldomly go to something like a split back formation that when they do it down near the end zone, the whole defense starts screaming: "Shovel shovel shovel!"
But maybe this is the year that changes. What if the Eagles do decide to put Westbrook and Booker out there at the same time? Well then someone else has to sit down. And that someone else is going to be L.J. Smith, one of the receivers, or whoever wins the starting fullback job.
You have to think that if it's the fullback, ok, that's an advantage in the passing game. Although it does cut down on the number of blockers in the running game. If it's L.J., maybe that's a net plus. We'll just have to see how Booker compares to a finally-healthy-again Smith. And if it's one of the receivers, well then either Booker is out of position -- if he lines up outside -- or we're talking about subbing him in for the #3 guy, whom we all hope at some point will be the explosive DeSean Jackson. Not sure that's an advantage in either situation.
So IF Booker plays at the same time as Westbrook and IF he's actually able to handle the blitz pickup responsibility that Buckhalter is so good at and IF he can function as a better receiver than LJ or DeSean, then maybe there's some net benefit there. But it's hard to see it being that huge.
Of course, the other way Booker can get on the field is if Westbrook is on the sidelines. But then he's not really adding anything, he's just replacing Westbrook's production. And if Lorenzo isn't really much of a threat as a runner, how great is it having him out there? Even if you're just going to use him as a pass-catcher, you're still looking at a significant dropoff from Westbrook not being in the game.
And if Westbrook gets hurt, God help us all, but most of all Donovan McNabb, who's going to be facing blitzes on 80 percent of the snaps each game.
All of which is to say that if Booker can play well enough to take a few touches a game away from Westbrook to try to keep the big guy fresh/healthy, then he's doing his job. Anything beyond that is gravy.