Brian Westbrook is one of the best running backs in Eagles history. Rushed for 6,538 yards and 37 touchdowns. Averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Caught 426 passes and finished his Eagles career with a club-record 9,785 yards from scrimmage.
He also was really, really good at something else you won't find in the record book. Despite being just 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, he was a helluva blocker. I mean one of the best to ever come down the pike.
Saved Donovan McNabb's butt many a time during his career by derailing blitzing linebackers and safeties intent on maiming No. 5.
"I was no different than a lot of running backs who come into the NFL," Westbrook said. "The biggest part of our game in college was having the ball in our hands. Blocking wasn't something we did a lot.
"But when I came here, if I wanted to play, I had to learn how to block. The first thing that Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens and Brian Mitchell and all those guys told me when I came here was [learn how to block]. Because they understood how bad the team would be without No. 5 behind center."
The same holds true today with Carson Wentz behind center. If he goes down, if he gets hurt, this team can kiss its Super Bowl hopes good bye.
After watching the Eagles' current group of bad-blocking running backs flail away since Darren Sproles got hurt in Week 3, Westbrook thinks it's not a matter of if Wentz is going to get hurt, but when.
"I think Doug [Pederson] is doing a good job of making those guys understand what the blocking responsibilities are, but at some point, the guys have to step in there and put their nose in somebody else's chest and block," Westbrook said. "And I'm just not seeing a lot of running backs this year do that.
"At times, it looks like they're turning down opportunities to block. And you can't win that way. Many times, if you watch the film, it looks like they're closing their eyes [at the point of contact]. They have to become better technicians. They have to become better at the technique of blocking. Right now, they're not very good at it.''
As Westbrook proved, and as the 5-foot-6 Sproles proved, you don't have to be big to be an effective pass-blocker.
"Darren's smaller than me and he was a fantastic blocker," Westbrook said. "First of all, he had the want-to. He wanted to get in there and mix it up, which a lot of guys don't have the heart to do.
"And because you're smaller than the defender, you already have leverage. Now you just need to step up there and actually perform the block. But so many guys aren't willing to do that."
The team's new addition, Jay Ajayi, is an explosive runner, but not a particularly good blocker either. It's one of the reasons Dolphins coach Adam Gase started taking him off the field on third down this season.
"It's a lot like learning how to be a receiver out of the backfield," Westbrook said. "You either want to learn how to be better at catching the ball out of the backfield or you don't.
"If you do, you stay after practice. You talk to the receivers. You run routes in the offseason. You talk to receivers about how they run routes and how they look at things. And you try to perfect your craft.
"It's the same with blocking. If you want to be better at it, you have to go out there and practice it. The first part of that is learning the technique. Learning how to close the distance from where you're originally lined up [to the pass rusher]."
Westbrook said the Eagles running backs' failure to close the gap between themselves and their blocking target has been one of their biggest problems.
"It's the one thing I think they're struggling with the most," he said. "They're not closing that gap. What happens is, if you're five yards deep in the backfield, and the linebacker is at the line of scrimmage, and if you only take one step up, then you're giving him a four-step running head start to try and run you over.
"Smallwood, for the most part, is a small guy. Clement isn't a big back. And Blount isn't a big-time blocker anyway. If you have a 250-pound linebacker running full speed and running into you, if you're four yards deep, the odds are you're going to get pushed into the quarterback.
"I just think their technique isn't very good. They have to become better technicians. They have to close the gap. They have to put their inside leg up. The strength of a pass-blocker is you're not giving away the inside. That's the quickest route to the quarterback. These guys routinely give up the inside lane. They routinely have bad technique. And when it comes to point of contact, they're not punching."
You can make numbers say whatever you want them to say. The numbers say the Eagles are fifth in the league in rushing, averaging 129.3 yards per game.
But that ranking was largely built on the back of the 407 rushing yards they piled up in back-to-back wins over the Giants and Chargers in Weeks 3 and 4.
In the four games since then, they've averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, which is the 15th lowest mark in the league during that period.
Now, they're about to face what is arguably the best run defense in the league Sunday when the Broncos visit the Linc. The Broncos actually are giving up 2 ½ more rushing yards per game than the Eagles, who are ranked No. 1. But the Broncos are second in the league in yards allowed per carry (3.0). The Eagles are 12th (3.8).
"They're very good," left guard Stefen Wisniewski said. "Part of it is scheme. There's almost always an extra guy down in the box. A safety or somebody that's playing down there. So they're going to have a numbers advantage, which is big.
"And they just play really gap-sound. Everybody knows their assignment and does their job. There usually aren't too many creases in there because they play that sound defense, and a lot of times, that safety is going to go unblocked."
The Broncos have given up just 14 runs of 10 yards or more in their seven games. They've held six of their seven opponents to 80 rushing yards or less. Oddly, the only team that has had any success against the Broncos on the ground was the 1-6 Giants, who rushed for 148 yards on 32 carries in a 23-10 Week 6 victory. The Giants are 27th in the league in rushing. So go figure.
"We're coaching the run fits differently this year," said head coach Vance Joseph, who replaced Gary Kubiak after last season. "Our linebackers are getting downhill faster, which takes the pressure off of the defensive linemen.
"Last year [under Kubiak's defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips], we were more of a stack-and-fall-back, run-fit team. This year, we're a downhill-fitting team, which works for the linebackers and works for the front."
The Broncos also signed nose tackle Domata Peko in the offseason. He's been a run-stopping force in the middle of their 3-4.
"They're a very aggressive defense," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "Even when the safety's down in the box, it seems like he's playing run first more than maybe some other guys are.
"All in all, they're focused on winning matchups on the outside one-on-one with the receivers. Whenever you have teams that are focused on that, those inside-the-box players can play the run that much harder."