One of the benefits the Washington Redskins get after acquiring Donovan McNabb is an direct insight from him on which players he feels a comfort zone with. Complying to this opinion may help the team have an inside edge on re-signing the veteran who will be a free agent at the conclusion of the season.
There is perhaps no player in McNabb’s pro career who has sat in this comfort zone better than Brian Westbrook. The 30 year old running back is hoping to play a ninth season after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles at the conclusion of 2009 after having spent his entire career in the backfield beside McNabb. The two know each other better than most backfield mates in the NFL.
Westbrook is a small back, standing 5’8″, who has battled injuries virtually every year of both his professional and collegiate career. When healthy, he is dynamic and especially dangerous in the passing game. He is one of only seven players in NFL history to have at least 30 rushing touchdowns and 25 receiving touchdowns in a career. With 29 touchdown catches, he is one away from the rarefied air of the “30-30 club”.
Westbrook also was born in Washington D.C. and is was a star at DeMatha High School, which has helped develop innumerous professional athletes. This includes his younger brother, Byron Westbrook, who is entering his fourth season as a cornerback for the Redskins.
One thing the Redskins have done this offseason is stuff their roster with running backs most pundits considered washed up. Incumbent Clinton Portis is now joined by veterans Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. Graybeards by NFL standards at the position, and both Portis and Parker have been battling injuries themselves the last few years.
None of the trio are considered excellent receiving backs, so their offering Westbrook a contract says that the role of third down back is unfilled. Though he has yet to agree to terms, Westbrook can clearly see the role the Redskins have planned for him. One of few carries and many receptions. With Johnson recently seen working on the teams short yardage unit, carries will be scarce regardless.
Critics are wondering why the team is so intent on getting guys with seemingly bald and flat tires for the 2010 season. It seems dubious any of these men will be able to carry the load at this junction of their careers, and there are questions if any will stay healthy an entire season.
There is no truth to the rumor that the team has placed feelers to Redskins legends John Riggins nor Larry Brown to see what they have left. Though the paychecks might be bigger than what either received as players, it is doubtful either will be tempted to run behind an offensive line full of questions at every position.
It appears Westbrook may be weighing his options, though no other teams have reportedly even offered him a chance to workout for them. Considering he has never played a full season his entire career, it is dubious that he will get a better offer than what the Redskins are currently presenting to him.
The familiarity with McNabb also has to be a major factor, as the two will know where each other are on virtually every play as they have most of their careers. If healthy, Westbrook could get thrown to upwards to 50 times on a team that has a wide receiver corps that most experts deem the weakest in the NFC East.
There is also a chance the other three running backs get injured or are ineffective, thus thrusting Westbrook back in the role of featured back. There are few teams left in the league he has this opportunity, so it will be interesting to see if the two-time Pro Bowler comes home to reunite with his brother, McNabb, and his hometown.