Eagles vets McNabb, Westbrook, Curtis to play

Donovan McNabb will be back after two-game absence.
Donovan McNabb will be back after two-game absence.
Posted: October 09, 2009

Coming off a bye week, it's back to business as usual for the Eagles' offense.

Donovan McNabb once again is the quarterback, following a two-game absence due to a fractured rib. Brian Westbrook will be lining up behind him in the backfield, after missing one game with an ankle sprain. And while wide receiver Kevin Curtis probably won't start, the knee injury that also kept him out against Kansas City 2 weeks ago has mended enough that he should at least get a pass or two aimed his way.

Their returns don't figure to hurt, although the Birds did score 34 points against the Chiefs without them. Of course, they also had 38 with them in the opener at Carolina. Even if one of their touchdowns came on a punt return, another on a fumble recovery. Obviously, you'd rather have your gun fully loaded. Yet either way, the Eagles probably aren't changing their approach all that much. Only enhancing the possibilities, as they prepare for Sunday's visit by winless Tampa Bay.

"I think, having been around these guys for a few years, I don't think it matters," said Brent Celek, who just became the first Eagles tight end to have consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Pete Retzlaff in 1965. "Whichever quarterback's out there, I've developed a relationship with both. They know where I'll be, and I know what they're going to do, on certain plays.

"That's always been the philosophy. We're pretty much doing the same stuff we've always done . . .

"Having [Westbrook] is huge. He can make plays, in the pass game and the run game. As a defense, you have to look at that, try to stop him. It's great to have all of them back. You can never have enough options."

Without them, Kevin Kolb showed he could make this offense work. Second-round draft pick LeSean McCoy averaged 4.2 yards on 20 carries. And top choice Jeremy Maclin - who like the others was making his second start - caught four balls.

They represent the future. Doesn't mean they can't be at worst a complementary part of the present. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg might even use Westbrook and McCoy in the same formation.

"It puts a little [more] pressure on the defense," he said. "The defense has to make choices, just by personnel. The things you can do are really endless.

"Brian looks pretty healthy. I would think he can handle a heavy load. But so many teams have a normal-down back, a third-down back and a changeup guy. This is a tough, physical game. With few exceptions, [you need] those rare, special players. Which Brian was, and is."

Ditto No. 5, who also has dealt with physical hurdles before. Mornhinweg insisted the game plan won't be any different, just because McNabb will be wearing a protective flak jacket. We'll probably even see him on the field with Mike Vick, as part of the Wildcat.

"Donovan and I had a quick discussion on that, just in general," Mornhinweg said. "And I don't think there's any reason at all to change the mentality going into the game. He's throwing really good, no restrictions. It didn't appear, right now, the way he's moving and grooving down the practice field . . .

"In some cases, if the man's not quite 100 percent, or it was a little longer layoff, or he's a little younger and doesn't have that experience, or he wasn't throwing quite as well as he is, then that might factor into it. No doubt about it. But that's not the case."

Kolb was able to step in and get the job done. Always good to know, just in case. Now, it's the franchise's turn once more. With his longtime wing man providing appropriate cover.

Sounds like a win-win. Tangibly, and otherwise.

"It's a big plus for us," fullback Leonard Weaver readily acknowledged. "Definitely a confidence booster. It opens things up, creates more problems. [The defense] has to be aware of them. But as far as the playbook, everything's pretty much the same. That's the attitude we've taken."

Added second-year wideout DeSean Jackson, who leads the team with three TDs: "They bring that leadership. Just their presence is a key. For the rest of us, it's a great situation to be in. I think they'll just pick up where they left off, making plays."

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