Tag Archives: Brian Westbrook

The Running Man: Wendell Smallwood Hopes to be the Eagles Next Star Back

21 May
Wendell Smallwood

West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (4) during the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri via AP)

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

At this time last year, Philadelphia Eagles fans were salivating at the prospect of former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher at the time, leading the team to the Super Bowl Promised Land.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.  Between a patchwork offensive line and an offensive scheme that didn’t play to his strengths,  Murray couldn’t duplicate what he did in Dallas. Throw in the fact that he really wasn’t happy with the Eagles and had no problem letting anyone, including team management, know it, he was ultimately traded.

While Murray’s departure leaves a pretty sizable hole for the Birds, it also gives a rare opportunity to the team’s fifth-round draft pick, former West Virginia star Wendell Smallwood to make some real noise, starting with this week’s Rookie Mini-Camp. If he plays his cards right, he could be the starting running back for the team.

Of course, running backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles might have something to say about that, but what bodes well for Smallwood is that he appears to be a good fit for head coach Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.

Playing for a usually pass-happy West Virginia squad, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

“When you look at his numbers this year (2015) and you watch the tape, it’s like doubles all the time,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice-president of football operations. “Fifty-eight 10-plus yard runs and it’s play after play. He runs with a determination. You see the speed on tape and you see the speed in testing.”

Smallwood fits into Pederson’s offense the way Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles or former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook fit into Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But Smallwood comes into his first rookie camp with some minor baggage. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness to change a story that implicated his friend in a robbery attempt.  No criminal charges were filed.

Smallwood also got noticed here in Philadelphia for some offensive statements he made about the city in 2011 on, you guessed it, Twitter. He has since apologized and deactivated his Twitter account.

Most of Smallwood’s first press conference with the Philly media was spent fielding questions about his past social media activities and his arrest. To his credit, he handled the onslaught well and said he was happy that Eagles picked him.

“This organization trusted and believed in me and had confidence in me to know that’s not the person I am,” Smallwood said. “I think the impression that I left with the Eagles was good enough to get me drafted.”

While the scrutiny is understandable on one level, they amount to youthful indiscretion and bad judgment. If folks got judged on the stupid things that they did and said they were 18 or 19 years old,  a lot of people wouldn’t have jobs.

Did it have anything to do with why he was a fifth round pick? Not really. Had Smallwood stayed for his senior year at West Virginia, he might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate or Doak Walker Award candidate as the nation’s best running back.

Smallwood said he’s going to come into the Eagles camp with something to prove in the way he did in his final year at West Virginia.

“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder since I started playing the game,” Smallwood said. “That’s because I wasn’t getting the respect that I deserved. Just wanting to work for everything and wanting to prove to people that I’m better than whoever put me against. I’m a competitor and I love to compete.  I approach the game that way and its paid off that way in getting me here.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Sproles has become the Ultimate Weapon in Eagles Offensive Attack

17 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space has helped the Eagles to a 2-0 record.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space has helped the Eagles to a 2-0 record. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For the second straight week, the Eagles fought their way back from a two-touchdown deficit thanks, in no small part, to the diminutive Darren Sproles whose speed has put opposing defenses on notice.

It also helped that the Eagles (2-0) were the beneficiary of some bad calls by the officials and the strange play-calling of the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff late in the fourth quarter.

Nevertheless, the Birds and their fast-paced offense came away with a 30-27 win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium because they withstood an early storm and were able to wear down the Indianapolis defense. Cody Parkey’s 36-yard field goal as time ran out was set up
by the speed of Sproles.

In fact, the former Kansas State star’s play-making ability was responsible for the Eagles last three scores. Sproles crossed the end zone just once. The other two times, he put the Eagles in position to score. For the game, Sproles caught seven passes for 152 yards and had four carries for 26 yards—178 total yards.He had two receptions for over 50 yards.

“He’s just a special player,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “The first day we had him it was, ‘How many different ways can find ways to get him the football?’ He’s just a dynamic football player.”

Sproles 19-yard touchdown run tied the game at 20-20 late in the third quarter. But it was his last two receptions that set up the Eagles last two scores that made the difference in the game.

With 4:25 left in the game and the Birds trailing 27-20, the Eagles had a second and 10 from their own 43. Quarterback Nick Foles hit Sproles on a short screen pass. The Birds 5-foot-6 running back sped past Colts defenders and was not tackled until he reached the Colts six-yard line.

On the next play, Foles hit wide receiver Jeremy Maclin for the game-tying score with 3:30 left in the game.

But Sproles wasn’t done just yet.

After forcing Indianapolis to a three and out, the Eagles started from their own 40 and moved down to the Colts 36 on a 24-yard pass from Foles to tight end Zach Ertz.

Another swing pass from Foles to Sproles for 17 yards put the Eagles in closer field goal range for Parkey’s game-winning 36-yard field goal.

A few years ago, they used to call former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook the “ultimate weapon” and Darren Sproles has become exactly that for Kelly’s offense. Within the context of this offense, he has become what De’Anthony Thomas was to Oregon’s offense when Kelly was coaching the Ducks.

When the Eagles have both Sproles and LeSean McCoy on the field at the same time, it does give opposing defenses a lot to think about. McCoy gained 79 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown in the win over the Colts. He said Sproles has been an important part of the offense.

“Without Sproles, we would be in some trouble, to be honest, we really would. That’s why we’re a team,” McCoy said. “When guys are struggling, he’s picking everybody up. He’s helping me out.”

Hall of Fame: The Case for Donovan McNabb

1 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Donovan McNabb got a  huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Donovan McNabb got a huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-It was an emotional Donovan McNabb who officially ended what was a tumultuous, enigmatic, oft-times controversial career in the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the Eagles.

McNabb, who is the Eagles all-time leading passer, will have his No. 5 retired in ceremonies on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field when the Birds play the Kansas City Chiefs, now coached by Andy Reid.

Ever since McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins after the 2009 season, there has been debate about how should Eagles fans should remember him.  Some fans and sports media pundits will remember him as a player who choked in the big games.

The anti-McNabb crowd will tell you that he was a passive-aggressive crybaby who refused to take responsibility for Eagles losses.  They blame him for the losses in four of the five NFC title games and the Super Bowl.

There were some who were upset that he was too much of a Black quarterback and others who said he wasn’t Black enough.  Huh?  What? The anti-McNabb crowd questioned his accuracy as a passer as well as his heart and leadership. By the way, he completed 59 percent of his passes-sixth among quarterbacks who are already in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To the anti-McNabb faction, I guess it didn’t matter that he played on what turned out to be a broken leg and threw four touchdown passes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. McNabb gamely tried to play with a broken rib in the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

“Those are the type of things that the average player can’t play through,” said former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.  “He’s had other things that he played through that you would never know about because he would never let you know.

“(McNabb) was mentally tough not only to deal with those injuries but to deal with all the negativity that came across his table so many times.”

Meanwhile, the pro-McNabb crew said that he was a great quarterback who managed to win in spite of having mediocre receivers for the most part and a head coach who refused to utilize the running game, especially in the big games.

They also point the fact McNabb was a model citizen off the field who involved himself with a number of charities in the community.  He never got arrested or had any brushes with the law and he was a good family man.

This past Sunday at the Eagles training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field, McNabb got a huge cheer from the 30,000 fans that came to see the Birds workout. That to me is an indication that maybe there were more people who appreciated him than those who loathed him.

I think the vitriol against McNabb is out of frustration because the team hasn’t won a championship since 1960.

I think with the passage of time people will appreciate McNabb in the same way fans like former Phillies Mike Schmidt, who was also disliked by fans when he was a player in spite of his success.

The anguish of coming so close to a Super Bowl win and not getting there is frustrating to fans and no one felt iit more than McNabb himself.

“My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street,” McNabb said Monday.  “Now the Phillies did it first, and I apologized to the fans because that was my goal.  I felt like I let them down.”

In the final analysis, I think McNabb, with the teammates he had, did everything they could on the field to win here.  If they had better personnel on both sides of the ball and maybe better coaching, who knows?

I do believe that there were times when I felt McNabb needed to just take over and dominate games with his ability to run and create on the fly. He did it at times, but not enough.

McNabb is the winningest quarterback in franchise history with 101 including the playoffs. He led the team to five division titles along with those five conference title games.

Is McNabb a Hall of Famer? It depends on whom you ask. There are a lot of people who say he falls just short.  I think you can make a case for him.

Well, if you like statistics, he has a good combination of numbers to get him there.  McNabb is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to compile 30,000 yards passing, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns. He has the fourth lowest interception percentage in league history.

Only three other players have accomplished that John Elway, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton.  Those three are in the Hall of Fame.

McNabb, Elway and Tarkenton are the only quarterbacks in league history to throw for 35,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards.

In McNabb’s 11 years with the Eagles, he won 92 regular-season and nine playoff games.  Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have more wins and more Super Bowl rings. A huge sticking point for fans in this day and age who believe that McNabb falls just shot of having a place in Canton.

“If you’re talking about the top three of the era, Tom Brady, Peyton, and Don,” said former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. “When you’re talking about Hall of Fame credentials, they’re there.”

But if you’re still not impressed, remember one thing—The Eagles could have drafted then Heisman Trophy winner Rickey Williams and his fondness for the whacky weed.  Ask yourself who had the better career.

Brian Westbrook: Philly’s Ultimate Weapon

7 Sep

By Chris Murray

Brian Westbrook was one of the most versatile running backs of his era. He was a threat to score every time he touched the football in both the running game and in the passing game.  During the prime years of his career in Philadelphia, the opposing coach conference calls at the Eagle s Nova Care Facility, coaches around the league talked about the nightmare of having to cover Westbrook.  Last week, the 32-year-old Westbrook officially retired as a Philadelphia Eagle. In this video report, the CM Report takes a look back at the career at one of the most dynamic players of the early 21st century.