The Philadelphia Eagles are not performing like the same team that lapped the field in the NFC last season, and it's not only because quarterback Donovan McNabb is playing with a painful sports hernia. They've had no sort of running game whatsoever to complement McNabb's passing. And if they don't develop one soon, their streak of four straight NFC East titles could be in serious jeopardy.
McNabb threw 54 passes in Sunday's win over the San Diego Chargers, while tailback Brian Westbrook got only 10 carries. The approach wasn't all that effective, as the Eagles sputtered on offense but salvaged a 20-17 triumph on a blocked field goal that they returned for a touchdown in the game's final minutes.
McNabb is averaging 42.3 passing attempts per game this season, while Westbrook is averaging 10.8 carries per contest. Westbrook never has been a workhorse runner. He has become a centerpiece of the Philadelphia offense because of his ability to catch passes coming out of the backfield, and he might be the best in the league at doing that.
But the Eagles no longer have even the threat of a running game to keep a defense honest. Last season, they signed veteran tailback Dorsey Levens after Correll Buckhalter suffered a season-ending injury. Levens wasn't spectacular, but he at least gave the Eagles a tough, straightforward runner as a change-of-pace alternative to Westbrook. This year, with Buckhalter again on the injured reserve list, the Eagles passed on a chance to re-sign Levens, and his absence has been surprisingly glaring.
Even McNabb, while indicating he relishes the opportunity to throw the ball often, said recently that the Eagles might have to adjust their offensive philosophy as the season progresses. This might be the week that Coach Andy Reid is forced to rethink what he's doing. If he doesn't, the Eagles could have trouble keeping pace in the improved NFC East. They won the division by seven games last season but now find themselves tied for first place with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants with 4-2 records, with the Dallas Cowboys a half-game behind at 4-3. . . .
The Eagles claimed kicker Jose Cortez, who had been waived by Dallas, off waivers. Philadelphia, which is awaiting the return of injured kicker David Akers, released Akers's replacement, Todd France. The Eagles are hopeful that Akers, who's working his way back from a torn hamstring muscle, will be ready to kick by next week. Cortez perhaps will remain with the team as a kickoff specialist even after Akers returns in an attempt to keep Akers from re-injuring himself.
Owners' Meeting Postponed
As the NFL mourned the death Tuesday of New York Giants co-owner Wellington Mara, the league postponed an owners' meeting scheduled for today and Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. It was not immediately rescheduled. . . .
The Mara family will continue to hold a 50 percent ownership stake in the team. Mara reportedly is believed to have left his ownership stake in the Giants in a trust for his wife, Ann, for tax purposes. The couple's oldest son, John, is the Giants' chief operating officer and is expected to continue running the team's day-to-day operations.
The Mara family has had an ownership stake in the club since 1925, when Wellington Mara's father Tim purchased the franchise. Wellington Mara and his brother Jack took over ownership of the team in 1930.
The Giants' other current co-owner, Robert Tisch, was diagnosed last year as having an inoperable brain tumor. . . .
The Miami Dolphins resumed practicing Tuesday after Coach Nick Saban had told his players and assistant coaches to stay away from the club's training facility in Davie, Fla., on Monday. The facility was without power as Hurricane Wilma moved through Florida. Many players have no power at their homes, but the Dolphins put generators to use Tuesday at their headquarters.
The Dolphins face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. It's the Saints' first game in Louisiana since they were displaced from New Orleans in August by Hurricane Katrina. . . .
Saban is sticking with the struggling Gus Frerotte as his starting quarterback. The reeling New York Jets might not do the same thing with Vinny Testaverde. Coach Herman Edwards might go back to Brooks Bollinger as the club's starter. Testaverde suffered a strained calf muscle -- not an injured Achilles' tendon, as was originally believed -- in Monday night's loss at Atlanta, and he has failed to be the steadying influence that the team hoped he'd be when it signed him after losing quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler to shoulder injuries. The Jets have a bye this weekend. Fiedler is still a few weeks away from being able to throw, according to Edwards.
Baxter to IR
Cleveland placed cornerback Gary Baxter on the injured reserve list because of his torn pectoral muscle, and elevated rookie wide receiver Brandon Rideau from the practice squad. . . . The Dolphins placed safety Tebucky Jones on IR because of a torn pectoral muscle. . . . The Jets lost linebacker Eric Barton for the remainder of the season because of a torn triceps. . . .
Green Bay placed tailback Ahman Green on the IR list and released wide receiver Jamal Jones. The Packers signed wideout Andrae Thurman, who'd been cut by Tennessee, and running back Walt Williams. . . . The Titans promoted receiver Sloan Thomas from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. . . . Indianapolis released cornerback Donald Strickland and defensive end Nathaniel Adibi from the IR list. . . . San Francisco re-signed cornerback Willie Middlebrooks. . . . Arizona re-signed wideout J.J. Moses. . . .
Linebacker Clark Haggans, who has missed three games because of a groin injury, should return to Pittsburgh's lineup this week. The Steelers will be without safety Mike Logan for three to four weeks because of a hamstring injury he suffered during last Sunday's triumph at Cincinnati. . . . Falcons defensive end Brady Smith is to be sidelined two to four weeks by a dislocated toe.