|Giants defense not counting out Eagles RB Brian Westbrook|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 28 September 2007 00:52|
The Giants have no doubt that Westbrook has a strained muscle in his stomach, and that he has sat out of practice the past two days. They also have no doubt that the catalyst of the Eagles' offense is going to play against them at Giants Stadium on Sunday night.
Want evidence? Look at last week.
Westbrook barely practiced for the Eagles' game with Detroit. All he did in three quarters of a 56-21 win was rush for 110 yards and two touchdowns, and catch five passes for 111 yards and another score.
The performance earned Westbrook the NFC offensive player of the week award.
``Anybody who does not believe he is playing, you are a fool,'' Strahan said Thursday. ``He didn't leave the game because he was hurt. He left the game because he already had 250 yards and they were up by 50-something points. We expect him to play and are preparing for him to play.''
If it sounds the Giants are concerned about Westbrook, they are.
Westbrook played a major role in ending New York's 2006 season. In January's wild-card playoff game, he rushed for 141 yards, scored on a 49-yard run, and ran four times for 34 yards on the final drive to set up David Akers' game-winning field goal as time expired in the Eagles 23-20 win.
``Right now he is probably the best guy in the league if you watch for all-around as far as a football player,'' Giants Pro Bowl middle linebacker Antonio Pierce said. ``He never gets enough credit for what he does. If he doesn't go, their offense doesn't go.''
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora said that the 5-foot-8 Westbrook has a rare combination of power and speed.
``He makes you miss and he is so strong people miss tackles,'' Umenyiora said. ``He runs very powerful and low to the ground.''
While his practice time has been limited, Westbrook said he keeps his rhythm by watching practices and getting feedback from fellow running backs. He also has an idea what to expect with New York's defense, which now is being run by former Eagles linebacker coach Steve Spagnuolo.
``I'm doing everything that I can to try to get ready,'' Westbrook said. ``Ribs are one of those injuries where you really can't give it a rest, because every time you move, you feel it and you are using that muscle. But, I'm doing everything to get in a position so I can play.''
Westbrook said none of his ribs are broken, but that he strained an abdominal muscle that is attached to his ribs.
Defensive tackle Barry Cofield said the Giants are preparing for Westbrook.
``If anybody else comes out there, we'll be ready for them,'' Cofield said. ``You don't want to prepare for a guy who has a limited skill set and then have Westbrook come out there. We are going to prepare for him. The offense is built around him.''
After giving up 80 points in their first two games, the Giants had their best defensive game last week, blanking the Redskins in the second half of a 24-17 win in Washington.
``I'm paranoid,'' Strahan said. ``When you win a game, I hate to feel too good about it. You feel like you are slacking off, so I think it was important for us to push ourselves a little harder today. You don't want to lose. You don't want that feeling.''